We live in an era when conspicuous consumption is rarely frowned upon, and consistently celebrated. Professional athletes are among the most notorious conspicuous consumers. But in Managua, Nicaragua, a statue stands in memory of an exception to this rule. I saw this statue about 20 years ago, when I spent six weeks there.
The statue is of Roberto Clemente, of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who was the first ever Latin American inducted in baseball’s hall of fame, and who is considered by many to be the greatest right fielder ever to have played the game.
Clemente was from Puerto Rico, not Nicaragua, and never played baseball there. Why then the statue?
Clemente was a generous man. Throughout his career, he would spend time in the off season rounding up and delivering aid and sports equipment in Latin America. On New Year’s Eve, 1972, following a devastating earthquake in the heart of Managua, Clemente died in the crash of a rickety plane loaded with supplies he was escorting to Managua. He was personally accompanying the supplies, because aid workers on the ground in Managua told him that the power of his celebrity was the only way to keep these supplies from being stolen by the Nicaraguan National Guard, who were stealing most of the aid coming into the country.
Sadly, Latin America is known by many for this sort of corruption. Fewer people are aware of the strong sense of community and of family that runs throughout Latin America. Clemente translates into English as, “Gracious.” May the graciousness of this man and the Latin American people inspire all of us to be more loving people.
En memoria de Roberto Clemente,
y en honor a nuestros hermanas y hermanos de América Latina,
encendemos esta vela de amor.
In memory of Roberto Clemente,
and in honor of our Latin American sisters and brothers,
we light this candle of love.