SB Nation's Amy K. Nelson heads to the Marlins' new ballpark in Little Havana to document the outrage surrounding Ozzie Guillen's Fidel Castro comments.
MIAMI -- It was less than 90 minutes before Ozzie Guillen's press conference on Tuesday morning and two women stood outside the Marlins' glistening new ballpark with signs. They were the first ones there, protesting the team's new manager who less than a week before had received the loudest ovation during the team's christening of the stadium on Opening Night. One woman held a sign that included the words "fool" and "jerk."
"We want him fired," she said.
Inside, a small room filled with around 100 media members, many of them from Spanish outlets, all of them awaiting Guillen to explain why he chose to tell TIME magazine that he had respect and love for Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. As the start time of 10:30 a.m. approached, the crowd outside mushroomed, and was getting louder. The people gathered at the metal police barricade, and the collective din rang inside the walls of the sterile media room. Marlins team officials, including president David Samson, allowed a few representatives from the mayor's office in at the last moment, while other officials pleaded with journalists to remain seated. It was chaotic and tense, and then Guillen walked into the room.
As he walked onto the dais, Guillen said good morning in Spanish, let out an audible cough and, with red eyes and with an unusual unsteadiness, began speaking in his native language, apologizing -- "from his knees" -- as the people gathered inside the room and those outside watched on a huge jumbotron.
Outside, most of the people in the crowd -- whose mean age looked to be somewhere in the 70s -- were less interested in what Guillen had to say and instead focused on the slight he had made to them, their country, their community. After all, the Marlins ballpark is in the heart of Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. Most of the people were angry, sad, heartsick, and demanding Guillen be fired, under any circumstances. Many said there was nothing he could say or do, determined to protest, no matter what either he or the Marlins said or did.
While that may seem unfair, stubborn and shortsighted, it was mostly sad. The collective pain, hearing their stories, only reinforced the sadness of the entire situation. Listening to the tales of how family members had their rights stripped, how many had died and how many continue to suffer, gave a context to this narrative that many in this country still do not have. Some of the men I spoke to told me that they had been in jail, and some started to break when recalling theirs and others' hardships suffered under Castro's regime. The stories were sad, just as the entire scene seemed to be. There were no winners on Tuesday. Not Guillen, not the Marlins -- who suspended their manager five games -- and certainly not the people in this community.
It's unclear if this is a vocal minority or if other community leaders will continue to come out and put pressure on the Marlins, if the team will feel the boycott that this group hopes to achieve, and if more people join the movement. The next test will be on Friday, when the Marlins return home, without their manager, to play just their second game in this city, in this ballpark, in this neighborhood. Little Havana awaits.