"If you come
back to Las Piedras," the senior Soto said, "understand you always will
That night I
attended a Bicentennial banquet at the Caribe Hilton sponsored by the
Association of the U.S. Army. The room was thick with braid and brass, and the
menu included such dishes as Yankee Pot Roast, Revere Cheese Pie and Liberty
Tomato. The guest of honor was an astronaut and Marine officer named Jack
Robert Lousma, who piloted Sky-lab Two and logged 1,427 hours in space.
the governor of Puerto Rico with a photo of San Juan taken from an altitude of
270 miles. Then he made a curious speech. It was strange and beautiful in
space, Lousma said, and one thing he had noticed was that you could not see the
boundary lines between countries. Nevertheless, none of us should forget the
constant peril of Godless atheistic Communism. The military men, some of them
Puerto Ricans but most of them continental Americans, cheered. "Our space
technology benefits every single person on this island." Lousma said. The
band played Dixie. A hundred officers sprang to attention.
I don't think Jos�
Soto Jr. would have been able to make any more sense out of Lousma's speech
than I did. Puerto Rico is not poor compared to Haiti, but the median income is
$2,328 per person. In the barrios, the billions invested in space programs
Baseball came to
Puerto Rico in 1900, introduced by occupying U.S. soldiers after the
Spanish-American War. It is the single continental export almost every islander
understands and watches and plays.
It would be hard
to explain the federal budget to the Soto family, but our sense of baseball
needs no explanation. For what that father and son were doing in a scruffy
tropical backyard was the same thing that my son and I had done many months
before on a blackened field, set among $150,000 homes, in the casual prosperity
of Westchester County.