David Ortiz’s Legacy to Afro-Latinos Goes Way Beyond Baseball Greatness

Estimated read time 6 min read

There are two things that most people know about me. I’m my father’s daughter, a die-hard baseball fan, and a hard core Red Sox fan. Okay, that’s three things. It was a bittersweet moment for me to see Big Papi retire from baseball, as the 2016 regular season came to an end. Although I know a lot has been said about his greatness as a baseball player, I want to honor David Ortiz’s legacy to Afro-Latinos, one that goes way beyond the game of baseball.


As a minority within a minority group, Afro-Latinos don’t have many opportunities to have a big, black guy, who happens to be a Latino that is also widely recognized as a good guy, representing them from a national stage. That’s why David Ortiz’s legacy to Afro-Latinos is unprecedented and so important.

Let me clarify that. I don’t mean that there aren’t other Afro-Latinos in the public eye and doing great things. Just that there aren’t many that EVERYONE knows are Latino that have worked alongside many other people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and ages building a reputation as solid as his in such a public way.

For many Afro-Latinos in the public eye, especially in entertainment, the fact is that people simply don’t know they are Latinos. This is mainly due to the fact that in the United States people are usually identified based on the way they look, so people automatically assume that they are African-American because they have dark skin.

Full disclosure: I love that David Ortiz is Dominican, not only as a source of pride as a Dominican, but also because I know that there are many more Black-and-proud Dominicans than we are given credit for. However, as an American Latina, I know that David Ortiz’s legacy to Afro-Latinos is not exclusive to Dominicans, but to all Afro-Latinos who struggle daily with asserting their identity as Latinos from the African diaspora; a concept that many can’t wrap their heads around here in the United States.


David Ortiz’s Legacy to Afro-Latinos:
5 Ways He Debunked Stereotypes

  1. The Big Black Guy Stigma. About anywhere else this is code for “bad” guy, threatening, and/or intimidating. When it comes to David Ortiz, people describe him as a big bear, a teddy bear, that is. The fact that this very dark, very tall, and very strong Black guy is seen as a soft, loving, huggable bear speaks for itself. People have gotten to know David Ortiz from a big stage, he is not a random man walking on the street, so he gets the privilege of being seen as a human being and appreciated because of his personality.

  2. Having an Accent = Not Smart. While having an accent is often viewed as a sign of not being smart, I think it has really made an impact to see the way David Ortiz is respected and listened to within the Red Sox organization, and in the city of Boston. His famous “this is our bleep city” speech after the Boston attacks, the fact that he has been a mentor to many, a leader within the team, and using his voice in many positive ways, despite having a strong accent as an obvious non-native speaker, gives validation to those of us who have been mocked or dismissed due to our accents.

  3. The “Crabs in a Bucket” Myth. The notion that Latinos are like “crabs in a bucket” pulling others down to try and make it to the top has also been debunked by Ortiz. Moreover, he initially made it to the Red Sox after being recommended by fellow Dominican and Hall-of-Famer Pedro Martínez, and has been consistent in his generosity with fellow players. Being a mentor to rookie players, a source of inspiration to his team and his city, David Ortiz’s legacy to Afro-Latinos includes being someone who lifts others, who empowers, and wants to see others succeed.

  4. The Myth of the Absent Black Father. Although you might think this one is easy for someone with the financial resources and career David Ortiz has, it is still important for the world to see a Black Latino man as a family man. Having been with his wife for 20 years, and going through a separation and getting back together in the public eye while also being an involved father in the spotlight, speaks to the integrity Ortiz has shown as a man off the field.

  5. Dominican, Latino & Black. David Ortiz embodies these three qualities and has shown just how a multicultural person lives a life that is multilayered, and has done so seamlessly. When you think of Ortiz, you cannot think of anyone more Dominican, who is also proud of being a Latino, a Black man, and a Bostonian as well. He is a perfect example that you can be as American as they come, show your love for this country, and still be very proud of your origin, heritage, and culture. He also represents Black Latinos who are often undermined by the constant questioning of their identity in a simple way: by living a life that contradicts negative stereotypes and being a great role model on and off the baseball field.

As a baseball fan, I’ve enjoyed everything David Ortiz has done for the sport of baseball, specifically for the Boston Red Sox. However, as an Afro-Latina what I love the most about him is the way he seems to have had the big picture in mind the whole time. His response to USA Today when he was questioned about his children hearing about his accomplishments is golden:

“If they ever get up here, I want people to say to them, ‘I knew your dad, and he was a guy with huge power. But there was something better about him. He was a good person, a good guy.’ That’s what I care about the most.” 

All I can say is mission accomplished, Papi! Your legacy has impacted not only your children, but also your community in such a positive way, you ought to be proud.

¡Gracias totales!


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