Latin America isn't just the place for Canadian Mennonites, US Mormons, beat poets, and billionaire embezzlers to seek refuge. In the 1920s to the 1940s it was also a place of refuge for many members of the old Negro Leagues.
The passing of Cecil Kaiser on Monday (Feb. 14) reminds readers of his obituary that not only did the Negro Leagues cover the United States and Canada, but many of the players also participated in baseball in Latin America. Says historian Bob Kendrick "Players would go (to Latin America) after the season in the States and be treated like heroes. They would stay in the finest hotels, eat in the finest restaurants and then come back to the States and be treated as second-class citizens." As the Library of Congress points out: "In Cuba, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America, professional baseball was not segregated. Many blacks played baseball there in the winter as well as in Negro Leagues in the United States in the summer."
Matt Restall's recent book, Black Mexico, contains an intriguing chapter by Alva Moore Stevenson on her African American / Mexican family - formed when her grandfather Daniel went to Mexico to work on railroads and married a woman that worked for Villa. They then settled on the border and joined many of the families that were bi-racial (consider El Paso, Texas, and the number of African American soldiers married to Mexican American or Mexican women).
The connection between African Americans and Latin America has barely been explored for the modern era. There is a large and academic focus on African immigrants (slaves and descendants of slaves) in the colonial era, but the studies and their quality seem to trickle off as we move out of Brazil and the Caribbean in the modern era.
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