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La Gran Fuga is a story about sports, patriotism, and family. Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez is a national treasure to the Cuban people, and struggled with his decision to leave his country for the promise of excelling at his passion – the game of baseball. His story is filled with complex repercussions with a cat-and-mouse escape plan worthy of a novel.

Here’s an excerpt written by Jonathan Butler:

Inside and outside of Cuba, Fidel Castro had used sports as a symbol of the revolution’s achievements, as well as a proxy for a war against the United States. Elite Cuban athletes were not only expected to defeat American opponents on the field of play, they also had to help win the media battle against capitalism. As a boy, Orlando would have been exposed to boxer Teofilo Stevenson’s three–gold-medal Olympic domination (’72, ’76, and ’80), as well as his well-publicized rejections of riches to fight professionals like Muhammad Ali: “What is one million dollars compared to the love of my people?” Along with superstar teammates like Omar Linares and Germán Mesa, Duque came to occupy an equally strategic place in Cuban society—the athlete and the human being coming together to symbolize the success of the béisbol machine and the revolution itself. He even wore 26, a number ubiquitous on the island owing to its political significance. Duque himself would later explain he simply inherited it from his father (along with his nickname), but for many others it signalled loyalty to Movimento 26 de Julio, aka M-26-7, the organization Castro formed with Che Guevara that led the Cuban revolution.

Read the “play-by-play” article on the Victory website: EL Duque La Gran Fuga

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