Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium happened and Los Angeles Cubans came out in force. Because it was a very full weekend, I’m still trying to gather my thoughts in a “Wow. Did all that just happen?” kind of way.
I’m going to try to describe the weekend with a basic chronology and from my own personal point of view, starting with Saturday night. Bear with me and enjoy the many fabulous blurry, under-exposed and generally bad photos of an amazing weekend.
Saturday night, before the game on Sunday, we had a special tribute dinner to honor Willy Chirino, who was accompanied by his wife, the lovely Lissette Alvarez. Willy was here in LA to throw out the first pitch at the Cuban Heritage Day game against the Brewers, and to sing the National Anthem. (See how that paragraph is already full? That was my weekend.)
Meet and Greet with Willy Chirino
So, the dinner. It was a meet and greet with Willy, organized by the Cuban Heritage Committee. These folks, as I’ve written before, are the cream of the crop of our local Cuban community and I’m proud to be counted among their number.
I happened to stand (serendipitously) in the back and Willy Chirino came up behind me for the photo and put his arm around me (and Betty). I. THOUGHT. I. WOULD. DIE.
I loudly cursed the bad lighting while quietly celebrating my perfect placement. My husband captured that moment. That’s Willy agreeing with me that the lighting was awful. That’s me with my Oh-my-gosh-me-muero face.
I have to interject right here that Willy and Lissette Chirino are the kindest, most delightful, and generous souls. They graciously posed for photos with every single person in attendance. (Please ignore the ridiculously-bright-nobody-looks-good-in-magenta lighting.)
My sister, Alina and I were among the first to spot him as he entered. We may or may not have greeted him with, “Oye! Muñecon!” It’s all a blur. Maybe because I lost my glasses sometime during the evening, but that’s not important right now.
We had a fabulous Cuban meal courtesy of the deliciously authentic Cuban Coco Palm Restaurant in Pomona.
There was so much relajo with Willy that night. Of course, I’m shameless, but people, I had Willy Chirino in my area code and within arms reach. (That’s not an opportunity any person should squander.)
He was such a great sport. Ya tu sabes.
Speaking of great sports – Eric was incredible as my hero support. (He’s the one who took most of these photos.) And I was delighted to be able to share the evening with him as well as my sister, Alina and her husband Mike.
Cuban Heritage Day At Dodger Stadium
I live in South Orange County. It takes us usually about 2 hours (because of traffic) to get to LA. And frankly, sometimes I hate the drive. (Okay, I hate the drive every time.)
So, I took the early train to Union Station and had Rose (goddess of all things Cuban Heritage L.A.) pick me up and take me to Dodger Stadium. My family followed – also by train – a few hours later.
For those of you who live here in the Southland, you can take a train to Union Station and a shuttle will take you up to Dodger Stadium. Sooo worth it for those of us who live many area codes away from LA.
Sebastian (you may call him Bash) had lots of “firsts” that day, including his First Train Ride.
Viva Los Doyers
Before the game there was a tremendous “fiestón” called “Viva Los Doyers.” Kudos to the Dodger organization for celebrating our Cubanity in the best ways possible. The music was provided by the Arsenio Rodriguez Project and the most incredible Cuban all-girl group whose lead singer sounds EXACTLY like Celia Cruz. (If anyone remembers the name of the group, please let me know so I can share.)
They had photo ops with cool old cars and Cuban flags flying everywhere. It was all so great.
Let me take a moment to say, although I wish I didn’t have to spell it out – we Cubans love our heritage, our island, our music, our culture. But we are also 100% American and we love this great land that received us with open arms and gave us our freedom.
Please don’t confuse our love for everything Cuban with a disdain for the U.S. – that’s not even a thing. I am a proud American citizen. 100% Cuban – 100% American. (I just happen to like living my life on that hyphen.)
One of our Cuban Dodgers spent lots of time with us pre-game, doing photo ops and generally clowning with the committee members.
It was such an added treat to have Jenny Lorenzo doing her thing and sharing the Cuban love. (See video below to find out how Cuban you are. Seriously, this girl is genius.)
All of our local Cuban brands were represented that day. Habana Brand Clothing created the cool tshirt design. Porto’s brought the pre-game goodies. I am just happy to be included in this amazing group.
Betty, of course, brought the treats. (Yay!) Thanks, Porto’s Bakery!
The National Anthem
Willy was invited to throw out the first pitch and to sing the National Anthem. But before we get to that, let me describe to you as what I kept referring to as the “Sea of Cubanity.” All across Dodger Stadium were Cuban-Americans, all wearing something to represent our Cuban roots.
It made me super happy to have my kids embracing their Cubanity.
There were small children in Cuba t-shirts to abuelos in their guayaberas. And the Dodger gift for the day? Fedoras. With a Cuban/Dodgers band. We were all positively oozing Caribbean charm.
The day ended with a Dodger loss – boo. But with a special private party at the home of Community Hero, Pep Valdes. Sadly, we had a baby that needed to get home, so my family and I headed on back to our train, but everyone present at the event reported that it was beyond amazing.
And then the moment arrived when Willy Chirino, our very own Cuban son (<–see what I did there?) sang out the National Anthem in his own inimitable way. The emotion shouldn’t have surprised me like it did. From the first notes the tears began and I fumbled with the video on my phone. Here’s what I captured of that beautiful moment.
Cubanity At Its Finest
As for my grandson, Bash. Well, he felt right at home with all the noise and the cheering. Because Cuban.
I loved spending the day immersed in baseball and being there with my family and my extended Cuban cubiches celebrating our shared culture and heritage.
I even found out just how Cuban I was. Check out this video below from the über-talented Jenny Lorenzo.
The final takeaway? I sincerely love my people. It was a very fun (and exhausting day) and we’re so grateful to have been a part of the celebration.
Hasta la proxima, Doyers!