I was there only one night in 1964, but I love the city of Xalapa. The University of Veracruz is there. The state’s symphony is there. The huge and mysterious Olmec heads are there, and I wrote a story about it: “The Xalapa Handkerchief.” Like all great cities, it is built on seven hills, and low-level clouds snake their way between them. It is also the home of the Xalapa Chileros.
A lot of people think that Martín Dihigo was the greatest baseball player of all time. He is the only person who is in the baseball halls of fame of the USA, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. When he died he was Cuba’s national minister of sports. But in 1953 he was the manager of the Xalapa Chileros.
I used to enjoy good conversations with a poet who lived in Xalapa and taught philosophy at the university there. His name is Joaquín Sánchez Macgregor, and when I knew him he had curly brown hair, sort of like a lot of Scotsmen you know. We used to appear in poetry magazines together, as in El Corno Emplumado No. 10. He taught philosophy in Cuba during the early years of the revolution there, and returned to take up a job at Veracruz. In the early 60s he was invited to speak at the conference of philosophers at the University of Texas, but he was stopped the US border police and turned back. He had four counts against him, at least, maybe five: he was a poet, he was a philosopher, he had been in Cuba, and obviously his mother had chosen to become a Mexican. In later years he became a big poobah a the National University (UNAM) in Mexico City. I checked the University of Texas libraries, and sure enough, they have some of his books there. It isn’t the hall of fame, but it is, sort of. In Havana and in Xalapa, Joaquín was a big fan of Martín Dihigo.
The Chileros compete in the Veracruz Winter League, the east coast equivalent of the Mexican Pacific League. There are two divisions of five teams each. Xalapa won the championship in 2001–2008. The 2008–2009 crown was won by the San Andrés Tuxtla Sorcerers. They love baseball in the state of Veracruz. Their national dance is a fandango performed in white outfits. Veracruz is a Caribbean nation, you might almost say. If you want to see how much the fans love their Chileros, just go to YouTube and type “Chileros de Xalapa.”
Oh, and remember Fernando Valenzuela Jr.? He recently signed with the Chileros as a first baseman and a designated hitter. On second thought, why am I extolling the wonders of Xalapa, my favourite city in Mexico? I know what: you can visit the other towns in the league. I’m sure you’ll really like the Córdoba Cafeteros or the Minatitlán Gavilanes. I’ll be in Xalapa. You know, going to the symphony.
The Diamond Alphabet — Baseball in Shorts
BookThug — 2011