Sunday, February 7, 2010

MEXICAN BASEBALL ROAD TRIP (Stop #19): Minatitlán, Veracruz

Minatitlán is a city in the southeastern part of the Mexican state of Veracruz, located on the railway and on Highway 121. It is a sister city of Minatitlan in the state of Colima (on the other side of the country), and is one of the smallest cities in Mexican League baseball.

In 2005, the metropolitian area had a population of 152,907. The Minatitlan municipality has an area of nearly 1,600 square miles and includes many small outlying communities.

Much of the city sits on reclaimed marshlands, and many new homes built on this reclaimed land have a tendency to sink as much as several feet before settling. Much of the surrounding undeveloped land is marshy, especially toward the northeast en route to Coatzacoalcos. There is a large Zapotec Indian population in Minatitlan. They are easily recognizable in their traditional Zapotec clothing. Most speak Spanish, but their traditional Zapotec language is still in common usage among them.

One of Mexico's six oil refining facilities is located in Minatitlan. The refining complex processes about 300,000 barrels a day and produces diesel, fuel oil, and gasoline. The local economy basically depends on the petroleum industry, but corn, fruits, sugar, and rice are also cultivated in the area.

Culturally, Minatitlán is home to a religious Candlemas festival in early February; a carnival running between the end of February and early May features folk music and dancing, cockfighting, horse racing and fireworks; a celebration of the so-called “Petroleum Expropriation” in late May centers on music, sports and fireworks; while similar events take place during the annual San Juan Bautista Festival on June 24.

The Minatitlán Petroleros (or “Oilers”) have an interesting history. The team spent several years in Cancun, where they were known as the Langosteros. The Lobstermen were one of the less successful Mexican League franchises, advancing to the Southern Zone Championship Series just once (in 1997). The damage Hurricane Wilma wreaked on the ballpark in Cancun after the 2005 season forced the team to move to Poza Rica, where the team was renamed the Petroleros. However, the team and city had a falling out on their ballpark lease, resulting in the team moving to Cordoba in the midst of the 2006 season and being renamed the Cafeteros. After finishing the schedule, the club once again re-settled in Minatitlán for the 2007 season and reclaiming the Petroleros nickname.

Last year’s edition finished a Liga-worst 34-73, winning just 13 of 54 games in the second half of the season.

NEXT ROAD TRIP STOP (#20): Oaxaca, Oaxaca

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