Jai alai was brought over to Cuba in 1898 by the Basques, the indigenous people of the Basque Country in Spain. On May 7, 1901, the first jai alai fronton opened in the New World, when the Frontón Jai Alai was inaugurated in Havana. Just a few years later, the first jai alai in the United States would open in St. Louis, Missouri around the same time as the 1904 World’s Fair.
The first season’s batch of players was not high quality by any means, the second season saw much improvement. Rufino Osorio, the first administrator of the Frontón Jai Alai, traveled to the Basque Country and returned with a large number of professional and talented players. Promoted by the Basque Basilio Sarazqueta, Havana became the center of an increasingly lucrative sport, and with that the increasing number of bets.
In 1918, the rules of jai alai underwent a few changes. During this period, interest in the game waned with many players leaving the island in search of better opportunities. Many players failed to adapt to these changes and retired from the sport. Frontón Jai Alai’s new administrator, Eliseo Argüelles, led the recovery of the sport renaming the fronton, Compañía Sport y Fomento del Turismo. Under his leadership, new talent emerged despite the rule changes, and once again crowds flocked to the fronton to Throughout the island, the fronton became better known as “El Palacio de los Gritos” or “The Palace of Screams”. On November 13, 1920, a second Jai Alai fronton opened on the island in the city of Cienfuegos, signifying the peak of the sport’s popularity.