One of the most popular hobbies around the world is playing and watching sport.
There are loads to choose from, with massive industries built around games from anything like soccer to basketball, or tennis to rugby.
For that reason, lots of countries have developed national sports, putting a big emphasis on games that have captured the hearts and interests of their people.
So, what is Cuba’s national sport?
Our informative guide below will tell you!
We’ve got all the answers you need about Cuba’s national sport, with information on its popularity and history, as well as details about how it’s practiced and enjoyed all over the country.
What Is Cuba’s National Sport?
We’ll begin by answering the key question.
Though Cuba actually has a successful history of boxing, especially within the Olympic tournaments, its national sport is baseball.
Technically, they only play baseball as an amateur’s sport, so it isn’t formally the country’s national sport.
However, it is far and away the most popular sport in Cuba, and for that reason it is often regarded as its national sport.
The popular sports after baseball include games such as soccer, basketball, and athletics.
The fact that baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba may surprise some of you, because baseball is such an American sport.
As you may be aware, Cuba and America do not have a good relationship.
All the way back to the 1960s and the Cuban Missile Crisis, where the two countries disputed over nuclear missiles that were in Cuba, the history between America and Cuba has been a negative one.
For the past six decades, America has had trade sanctions with Cuba, meaning that nothing could be bought or sold between the two countries.
Considering that the two countries are far from friends, Cuba celebrating baseball as its most popular sport is certainly interesting. However, there’s plenty of history to it, which we’re going to go into now.
Baseball In Cuba – A Brief History
As you can guess, baseball came to Cuba via the US.
In 1864, some Cuban students came back from their American college with balls and bats, and helped to make the game popular in their home country.
At the same time, Cuban sailors who had also visited the United States were bringing back the same game, practicing it back home and slowly making it part of the local culture.
Five years later, the Spanish rulers of Cuba banned baseball. To them, the game has become too popular, and was taking the Cubans away from bullfights.
Bullfights were important to the Spanish colonialists, because it was one of the country’s primary sports.
If their Cuban colony was celebrating it too, then it was a sign of respect to the Spanish.
With baseball distracting the Cubans from the bullfighting, it was seen as disrespectful, and it had to be banned.
However, baseball not only continued being played by the Cubans, but actually gained something – a greater sense of importance and pride.
Before, the game had just been for fun. However, now it was a sign of protest and freedom.
To play baseball in spite of the Spanish rulers was a big gesture of power and equality.
Thanks to these meaningful beginnings, baseball today holds a place in Cuba as much more than a sport – it truly is a national identity.
In 1878, Cuba created The Cuban league, which was their professional baseball league.
To begin with, all players were white, but from 1900 onwards they allowed black players too – making it a much more inclusive sport, which is felt widely today.
The sport continued to be popular for decades. When Fidel Castro successfully led the Cuban Revolution and took power in Cuba, he placed a lot of emphasis on baseball.
They believed that having Cuba succeed in baseball around the world would reflect the country very positively, as well as highlight how positive the revolution had been.
On top of that, they believed that the baseball success would make Cubans feel greater national pride – just like in 1869, baseball became a symbol for much more.
However, Castro stopped baseball from being professionally practiced, instead making it amateur.
The general reason for this was that baseball was a high-profile, high-paying sport.
Given that Castro was against capitalism, having a sport that made its players so wealthy sort of went against the whole message.
Though this hardly made the game less popular, the low wages did put some players off, and many actually defected to America after the Soviet Union (Cuba’s key partner in trade) collapsed.
With that being said, baseball has continued to be popular all across Cuba, despite largely staying an amateur sport.
How Is Cuban Baseball Played?
When it comes to the rules of the game, Cuban baseball is largely the same as American baseball.
For those not familiar, a batter has three opportunities to hit a ball that’s thrown at them by a pitcher.
When they hit it away into the stadium pitch, they then run around a circle, going past a number of different bases.
The other team tries to catch the ball and get it to their players on those bases, before the batter reaches them.
For example, if a base player catches the ball before the running batter has reached it, the batter is out.
There are plenty more specific to the game, but this is the general feel for it. Since baseball came from America, it is fitting that Cuba follows the game so similarly.
In fact, many Cuban players have even started using US baseball slang, shouting words that sound close to terms like hit and homerun.
Cuban Baseball Stadiums
However, there is a major difference between Cuban baseball and its American cousin: it isn’t commercial.
If you’ve ever seen American baseball, the stadiums are filled with advertisements, the players are paid millions of dollars, and the TV broadcasts are filled with even more commercials.
Baseball is a very lucrative game in America.
However, since Castro stopped Cuban baseball being professional and made it amateur instead, the commercial-money aspect of baseball has been stripped out.
For example, there are no advertisements in the stadiums, only patriotic slogans.
Similarly, you cannot buy hot dogs or cups of beer, instead only cheap coffee and candy.
On top of that, the stadiums are far from fancy, with old seats and surroundings.
The biggest Cuban stadium holds 55,000 people, but the smaller ones certainly have less quality in their construction when compared to the fancy American mega stadiums.
On the plus side, tickets are only five cents. This is great because it allows everybody to go to the game, feel pride, and support their country.
However, player salaries are only slightly higher than the country’s average.
The national sport of baseball is a symbol of pride in Cuba, with a history or rebellion and revolution linked to it.
The game is widely popular, although there is no commercialism in it in order to avoid capitalism.