The handshake that could well be Cuba’s photo of the year.

Vicente Morin Aguado

Tony Castro and Yasiel Puig in Havana.
Tony Castro and Yasiel Puig in Havana.

HAVANA TIMES — If we wanted to assess the results yielded by the United States’ new policy towards Cuba in the course of a year, the clearest illustration of the changes this policy has brought about may be this handshake between Fidel Castro’s son and an unruly Cuban who was previously dubbed a “traitor”, indifferent towards his unexpected host and returning, happy, to the country of his birth.

Yasiel Puig fled Cuba in the strictest sense of the word. Here he once faced prosecution for common crimes, and he was to find his lifeline in baseball. He arranged for a dangerous journey with human traffickers and made it to the United States this way. He then became a multi-millionaire thanks to his evident skills with the bat and the glove. Still the restless young man he was in Cienfuegos, he returned to Havana for a visit a lot earlier than he could have imagined and was received as a hero.

Antonio Castro Soto de Valle is a 46-year-old medical doctor specializing in orthopedics. Known as “The Godfather,” he is the son of the Comandante and was made manager of Cuba’s national baseball team in the years of transition from easy victories against squads that Havana’s fans now refer to as “pewee teams” to the difficult, professional matches that finally forced the island’s team to look for real talent.

At first, back when Jose Ariel Contreras struck out 15 US minor league players at Winnipeg’s 1999 Pan-American Games, it looked as though the team might be able to overcome the new challenges. It was the month of July and the celebrations commemorating the assault on the Moncada barracks had been postponed so they could coincide with the arrival of the player who Fidel Castro then called the reincarnation of Antonio Maceo. The sorrows would come later, when the Titan from Pinar del Rio left to join the New York Yankees. The exodus of players has not appeared to stop since.

We are left with the memories of January 14, 1962, when Havana’s Latinoamericano stadium filled up with fans and the leader of a triumphant revolution inaugurated the first National Baseball Series, underscoring its amateur nature. Decreeing the end of professional baseball, Castro then made a historical statement: “this is the triumph of free baseball over enslaved baseball.”

Tony Castro and Yasiel Puig

Let’s come back to the Cuban capital, nearing the end of 2015, where, without doing anything wrong, you can be swiftly taken to a police station simply because your ID card says you do not reside in the city.

What is the latest news about these two men who greeted one another one year after relations between the United States and Cuba took a pivotal turn?

Of the Dodger’s star right-fielder, we know of a brawl between him a Miami bouncer. According to police spokesman Delvish Moss, “at one point” Puig and the bouncer started a fight and Puig left with a swollen eye and bruises on his face. The spokesman added that the bouncer ended up with a cut lip and some bruises on his face.

It must have been a heavy-set bouncer, because the Cuban is over six feet tall and well-fed.

With respect to Fidel Castro’s youngest son, journalist Ladislao Aguado’s article, published by Diario de Cuba on July 11, reveals that “the Turkish magazine Gala, devoted to gossip news, has just published a note saying that Tony – also known as “The Godfather” – is spending his summer in Bodrum. According to the publication, Castro arrived at the tourist complex from Mikonos, on a 50-meter-long vessel, accompanied by a retinue of 12 people, including relatives, friends and bodyguards.”

So, he traveled from Greece to Turkey down the Aegean, recalling the mythical heroes of the Hellenic thalassocracy.

A question posed by a friend and Havana Times collaborator invariably comes to mind: “could you explain what socialist morality is all about, professor?”

This chronicler was then left entirely perplexed.

The verdict arrives from a reader who, on seeing the photo capturing the historic handshake between Tony Castro and Yasiel Puig, exclaimed:

“Let the happy ones who return and their stuck-up hosts be free from worry. Everything is forgotten, play ball!”

Vicente Morin Aguado: [email protected]

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