Christmas in Manoguayabo

by Brian on December 24, 2004

Since it’s the season for spreading good news stories, here’s a “delightful story about Pedro Martínez”: and the resources he’s put back into his home town of Manoguayabo. It’s easy to feel jealous (or worse) towards sports stars for all the money they earn, but these feelings are hard to maintain when the star does so much good with the money.

For years Pedro has been my favourite player on my favourite (non-Australian) sporting team, and it was rather sad when he left so he could get more money from the New York Mets. But it’s hard to feel bad about Pedro getting the extra $13 million or so the Mets were offering when so much of it will be returned to Manoguayabo.



Andrew Boucher 12.24.04 at 2:07 pm

I wouldn’t trust the New York press on anything they write about Martinez from now on. They need to lay it on pretty thick in order for New York fans not to boo the jeepers out of Martinez come April.

Bah humbug !

(PS: But I complement Brian’s taste in baseball teams.)


david 12.24.04 at 3:41 pm

The Globe managed to write about Pedro’s good deeds in the DR in an article right next to a column condemning him for being a greedy, disloyal loser.


Chuchundra 12.24.04 at 5:47 pm

We Met fans aren’t going to boo Pedro. It’s the Yankee fans that hate him and that suits us just fine.


Andrew Boucher 12.24.04 at 6:12 pm

david: The Globe is owned by the New York Times, so who can you trust nowadays?


P O'Neill 12.24.04 at 8:51 pm

I would be interested in seeing a side by side comparison of Pedro’s hometown giving with that of Mariano Rivera to his hometown in Panama. There was an implication in the coverage of Rivera’s village during the World Series deaths there that he had not been very generous — built a big house, gave out a few gifts at Christmas, but that was it.


pedro 12.25.04 at 6:41 pm

Latin American immigrants are often in a special position to do much good with the opportunities they find in America, and more often than not, they do much good. For instance, the total amount of money flowing from the US to Guatemala–in the form of financial help from immigrants to their loved ones at home–is comparative to the revenue generated by the top industries in Guatemala.

Martinez’s case is a grand manifestation of a very widespread phenomenon. I don’t mean to diminish Martinez’s really remarkable generosity, but I do think that his generosity and the proportionally comparable generosity of other less wealthy Latin American immigrants living in the US is in part the result of social circumstances that have no parallels in the US. African American sports stars coming from impoverished neighborhoods have often contributed most generously to developmental projects, but it is very hard to find someone who has built 40 houses, a hospital, a school, etc.

A buck only goes so far in the US, but it goes a long way back in Latin America. And the knowledge of this commits Latin American immigrants to generous financial aid to their relatives back home. It always strikes me as interesting that American public discourse is plagued with references to the “American dream” when discussing the motivations of Latin American immigrants. The way I understand the concept, the American dream is one of wealth–a dream that is often seen in other cultures as comparatively individualistic. I think that the Latin American immigrant dream differs in important ways. The extent to which immigrants from Latin America in the US are committed to giving aid is quite remarkable, if one judges by the aid that even the poorest of immigrants send back home. I don’t refer to figures here, and I may be proved to have an inflated perception of the relative financial generosity of Latin American immigrants, but I am pretty sure that the way we articulate our dream is strikingly different from the way the ‘American dream’ is articulated in public discourse.

A few years ago, when I was getting ready to go to graduate school in Mathematics here in the US, my undergraduate advisor confessed to me something that only now do I understand completely: he said that when he finished his PhD, he had a choice between being a mediocre nobody in the developed world, and being an inspiring, consequential figure back home–and thus he abandoned his dreams of research, and returned home to do what he could for his country. At first I thought this was a confession of cult of status, a confession of narcissism. There may have been some of that, of course. He chose to go back partly because of status, but now I see he also did so because anything you do in Guatemala has an impact, whereas the impact that your life can have upon your surroundings in the first world is relatively negligible.

There are many Latin American immigrants who stay in the US not simply because that gives them the opportunity to become wealthier. They come here to do what Pedro Martinez has done, only in a smaller scale. They can’t necessarily go back to their countries of origin and become important figures in the national bank–but they can help their families out with the extra dollars they make here.

I guess the experience of having lived in circumstances of profound social injustice marks many of us in a very strong way. Some just happen to be in a place from which it is easier to help others, and that–along perhaps with something of a communitarian suspicion of the individualism of the American dream–commits them to a dream in which social impact weighs more heavily.

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