Dr. Antonio Sotomayor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University Library

Librarian for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Affiliated Faculty Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Assistant Professor, Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism

337A Main Library

University of Illinois

1408 West Gregory Drive

Urbana, IL  61801

217-300-4812

asotomay@illinois.edu

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I am a historian of sport and Olympism in Latin America and the Caribbean. My research primarily focuses on sport as the window to study politics and national identity in Puerto Rico during the twentieth century. My forthcoming book entitled "The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico," explores the politics of Puerto Rico's introduction into the Olympic movement, a process immersed in international diplomacy. Puerto Rico has been participating in Olympic competition since 1930. While this presence shows the consistent existence of an Olympic nation, it occurs under a colonial relation with the United States. As an unincorporated territory of the U.S., Puerto Ricans constitute the only case in Latin America where sporting sovereignty does not equal political sovereignty. This manuscript unravels the conflicting story of Puerto Rico’s rise as an Olympic nation, a rise embedded in colonial struggles. Indeed, the Puerto Rican Olympic delegation was inherently immersed in pressing international politics such as Good Neighbor policy, decolonization movements, and the Cold War. Moreover, viewing sport as culture, the rise of Puerto Rican Olympism was the perfect tool to perform the Puerto Rican nation at the most important global festival of nations: the Olympics.

A new project studies the role that the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) played in the politics of United States expansion in Latin America and the Caribbean. It particularly seeks to establish intersections between sport, imperialism, and religion. The YMCA, in its religious missionary orientation, formally allied itself with the U.S. Army and Navy forces during the Spanish American War of 1898 to accompany invading forces into Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. This alliance gave YMCA missionaries the opportunity provide religious and moral support to the troops in the frontlines, in addition to opening the doors for proselytizing in these Catholic countries. Through their focus on “muscular Christianity,” the YMCA believed that a strong body would provide stronger Christian soldiers and missionaries, in turn creating a stronger faith, and providing locals with a model of a modern institution for sport and recreation.

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