Gringo in Guadalajara

 Futbol Fields

When you fly over Guadalajara, something seems missing but at first it is difficult to figure out exactly what it is.  Then it hits you: there are no baseball diamonds.  It's a signature feature looking down at any part of the United States --- you will see dozens and dozens of ballfields.  This has been the case since the 1930s, when many thousands of baseball diamonds were laid out as Depression-era public works projects.  Baseball in those days was often heralded by politicians as a kind of panacea for the suffering morals of the nation's youths --- much as midnight basketball would be a similar stand-in during the Clinton administration.

Of course, baseball is not popular in southern Mexico.  Although it has a following in the country's northern border states, there are no more than a handful of baseball diamonds in the entire Guadalajara metropolitan area --- thus leading to that unsatisfactory feeling for any American looking down from above.

Instead, it is soccer, or rather football, or rather futbol, which is the default sport of Mexico.  And it certainly owns a larger market share among the youth here than baseball does in America.  There is really no basketball, hockey or (American) football to compete with futbol here.  And sports like tennis and golf are seen (as they once were in the U.S.) as elitist sports.

Some Guadalajara soccer fields are actually made of cement.

And then soccer fields do not need the same upkeep as baseball fields.  There are no dugouts, baselines, infields, bases, or outfield walls to monitor.  This helps in a poor country.  Many soccer fields here are really just patches of grass --- or even dirt or concrete.  Often a rickety goal frame stands on each end.  Still, despite the harsh conditions, Mexicans make use of their soccer fields every bit as much as Americans use their baseball diamonds...perhaps even more so.