Dr. Antonio Sotomayor, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University Library and Recreation, Sport & Tourism

Latin American and Caribbean Studies Librarian

Associated Faculty of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

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 embodiment of politics and national identity in Puerto Rico during the twentieth century. Central to my argument is that the development of sport infrastructure, in its physical and bureaucratic sides, is as much political as it is a cultural process of identity. By analyzing the way sport was regularized and institutionalized we can understand the way Puerto Rican sport mediated in a broader process of a U.S.-P.R. colonial political consolidation, which in the meantime aided in the development of an athletic culture. The negotiation of sport, colonialism, and culture was not only a matter of local interest, but made international when the IOC played a key role by accepting Puerto Rico’s Olympic Committee in 1948. Therefore, Puerto Rican sport development, placed in a context of “third world” modernization, is an excellent example of the importance to observe and comprehend the intersections of sport, culture and politics not only in its local impact, but also at the international level.

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.

I am also working on a book project on the history of Puerto Rican Olympism. 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 seeks to unravel the conflictive story of Puerto Rico’s rise as an Olympic nation, a rise embedded in colonial struggles. Contrary to the belief that sport and politics should not mix, this story shows that the rise of Puerto Rican Olympism was a highly political endeavor. 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.

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