Cubans indulge baseball mania at Havana's "Hot Corner"

Sun Mar 1, 2009 7:11pm EST
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By Jeff Franks

HAVANA (Reuters) - For all the shouting and nose-to-nose confrontations going on, unsuspecting visitors to Havana's Parque Central might think they had walked into a brawl or a counter-revolution.

"Lie, lie, liar!" a youngish man in dreadlocks bellows.

"You don't know anything!" shouts back another, dressed in what would be business clothes except for the white high-top tennis shoes.

"Liar!" comes the response at a volume not really necessary from a distance of two inches.

The in-your-face, high-decibel shouting match might be about love or politics in another place, but here in the park's famous Esquina Caliente, or Hot Corner, the topic almost always under discussion is baseball, Cuba's national obsession.

Every day, all day, dozens of baseball fans, mostly men, gather in the tree-shaded park in central Havana to talk about their beloved "pelota," as baseball is called here, in animated conversations that usually appear more heated than they are.

The verbal jousting may be about the worth of a particular player or a comparison of the participants' favorite teams, or whether Cuba can win the World Baseball Classic this month.

At any given moment, several debates can be going on, in a free flow of expression not possible everywhere in Cuba.   Continued...

<p>Cubans argue at Havana's Parque Central February 26, 2009. REUTERS/Enrique De La Osa</p>