Baseball, poetry and Nicaragua

Cultural Insights — By on March 13, 2008 at 7:35 am

I came across an interesting recent blog entry on Blog Critics Magazine in which Terence Clarke reminisced about a two-decade-old journey to Nicaragua and what he learned about that country and its love affair with baseball.

“Baseball is a poem,” my companion said. I looked out the bus window….My companion’s sentiment was similar to one that both John and I had noticed among the Nicaraguans in general. Whenever we asked one of them what he did for a living, the answer was almost universally, “I am a poet.”

Putting aside for the moment that at the time it was almost impossible to make a living in Nicaragua…it still seemed unusual to us that so many Nicaraguans claimed to be poets. It’s well known in the United States that writing poetry will make you no money at all. So John and I figured that maybe the Nicaraguans were simply acknowledging that fact, and that, since there was no money anywhere in Nicaragua, maybe poetry was as good a profession as any.

But that was an insouciant observation on our part, because baseball and poetry in Nicaragua have in common one very important element. The heart itself is best expressed by baseball and by verse. The two make the soul sing in that country, equally so, and they do not alternate. Both express the same emotional infusion of earth, water and light. Both bring forth the same artistic flower.

Our group played a game of baseball against an all-star team of farmhands in the town of Boaco…Afterwards we were honored at a fiesta on a ranch outside town. The farmhands had all been invited, and there was a smattering of dignitaries as well, including the nurse at the local clinic, who was holding a baseball in her hands when we met.  She explained that she had loved the game all her life, and was overjoyed that we had come all this way to play against her neighbors here in Boaco.

At first John and I didn’t know that she was the local nurse, because when I asked her what she did, she replied, “Well, I’m a poet.” Only a few minutes later did we discover her medical leanings.

But I took the opportunity to tell her that many, many Nicaraguans had told me that they were poets. Did she know, I asked, why there were so many poets in her country?

“Of course, señor,” she replied. Her eyes fluttered. Her hands caressed the baseball. Smiling, she took in a hurried, excited breath. “It is because Nicaragua is a poem.”

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