Cuban exceptionalism: the inconsistency of U.S. immigration policy for Latino baseball players

The United States encouraged the spread of baseball in the Caribbean Basin as an act of cultural imperialism, but by the early twentieth century, a rising number of Latino baseball players were proving their mettle against major league and Negro league players. Cuba was the center of a cosmopolitan international baseball circuit until the start of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, but once the U.S. government issued its corresponding embargo, the flow of Cuban players into the U.S. dried up, forcing Major League Baseball to look elsewhere for options, namely Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. For decades, major league teams signed young Latino players in these countries to inexpensive contracts and committed resources to build baseball academies, instructional facilities designed to develop as many talented players as possible. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and stopped providing aid to Cuba, Cuban baseball players defected to play in the major leagues. Despite the years of developing Dominican and Venezuelan players, both the U.S. government and Major League Baseball showed great preference for Cuban players, providing them with expensive contracts and an easier path of immigration, respectively. Cuban baseball players were among the most talented athletes in Cuban society, making them appealing for major league rosters and important in the U.S. government’s efforts to prove the superiority of capitalism over socialism.