As Friday night crept into Saturday morning, Puerto Rico held on for dear life to beat the United States 6-5, clinching a spot in the final round of the 2017 World Baseball Classic.
Important though it may have been for the island nation’s tournament status, beating the United States also sparked up culturally-charged celebrations on the commonwealth and online, as the W doubled as a metaphorical triumph over what many Boricuas view as the colonial overlords deciding their fate.
As the baseball team, so often in the shadow of both the US and the Dominican Republic, clinched their group with one game to spare, La Placita de Santurce in San Juan turned into a turn up for the ages.
On social media, the party took a decidedly more pointed approach, as jokes rolled in about this being a game for Puerto Rican independence.
With dueling support for both independence and statehood among the island’s inhabitants, tensions over Puerto Rico’s colonial status have been bubbling over, as it faces a debt crisis bigger than any before. This week, its pro-statehood governor Ricardo Rosselló’s fiscal plan was approved by the Junta Fiscal, which means Puerto Ricans face major tax overhauls, pension-spending cuts, removal of bonuses, cuts to public education budgets, and more.
In this context, the Boricuas’ win over the US team provides a small, prideful moment for an island in need of such reliefs.
Whereas it can be said that the United States’ fanbase (and some players as well) have seen the WBC as a blow-off tournament – an extended spring training at best – victories like Friday night’s help clarify why teams like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela live for the chance to take a win, wherever they can.