From July 25 through August 1, 2016, I traveled to Brazil seeking to learn from their library systems, establish library contacts, explore avenues for collaboration, visit the offices of our long time vendor of Brazilian books, learn from Brazilian and international scholars on the socio-political and cultural aspects of sports, and share my own research on the Olympic Movement in Puerto Rican history. It was also my first time in Brazil, a country that I have been wanting to visit for many years now. To do so just a few days before the start of South America’s first Olympic Games, was fantastic! The trip was a resounding success on all accounts.
My trip consisted of two parts: first, three days in Rio de Janeiro, then 3 days in Vitória, Espirito Santo. In Rio de Janeiro, I met with faculty and directors of premier Brazilian cultural and academic institutions including Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Centro de Pesquisa e Documentação de História Contemporânea do Brasil (CPDOC), Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa, the National Library, the National Archive, and the Universidade Federal do Espirito Santo. I was also given a tour through some Olympic venues and places of interest.
On July 26, I accepted a generous invitation from Professor Victor Andrade de Melo to present my work before the faculty and graduate students in the sport history program of the UFRJ. One of my main goals of the trip was to establish contact and seek collaboration with key institutional leaders to foster the study of Latin American and Caribbean sport. At the CPDOC and Rui Barbosa foundation, I met with the individuals in charge of the 2016 Rio Games’ memoirs, a comprehensive project to safeguard the written and oral sources of the process of hosting the Olympic Games in Brazil from the bidding process to Olympic legacy projects. I brought the leadership of the Library of Congress – Rio de Janeiro Office with me because they are also developing a web-archive project on the Games.
My contribution hopefully will bring all of these resources together to create a Latin American and Caribbean Sport Digital Library here at Illinois. With some 3,600 volumes, our Latin American and Caribbean Sport Library Collection seeks to become the first such identified collection in the United States. It will be a subspecialty within our Latin American and Caribbean Studies Collection, which is currently among the top five in the nation with nearly 980,000 volumes. My hope in supporting the study of Brazilian and Latin American Olympism is to connect these projects in Brazil with our famed Avery Brundage Collection at the University Archives.
Brundage, a U of I alumnus, became the President of the International Olympic Committee during the crucial years of 1952 and 1972. My goal is to foster comparative studies between the 2016 Rio Games and the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. A version of this idea is currently under way through my “Research Guide to Latin American and Caribbean Sport” (http://guides.library.illinois.edu/sports).
Before I left Rio, I toured some of the new facilities for the Rio Games including the Olympic Plaza, the Museu do Amanhã, the Porto Maravilha area, parts of the Rio de Janeiro Light Rail, Copacabana Beach, and Pão de Açúcar. The excitement for the Games was palpable throughout the city. At Copacabana Beach I saw the facilities for Beach Volleyball and locals play Beach Rugby 7. It was a surreal moment when the French National Rugby 7 team arrived to watch them play and enjoy the evening before the stress of the competition.
In Vitória, Brazil, I presented my research on Puerto Rican Olympism at the 13th International Symposium on Olympic Research. At this meeting I met the Head of the IOC’s Olympic Studies Centre, Ms. Maria Bogner. I was told that they are developing an Olympic Studies Digital Library and I suggested creating an Area Studies component so that the resources scattered throughout different regions of the world are better represented. This idea was enthusiastically welcomed and we will keep collaborating in the future.
My larger vision for this subspecialty in Latin American sport is to not only create and maintain a robust Sport Digital Library with resources here at our Library, but also have enough funding to collaborate with other countries to preserve their precious and precarious collections. For example, I have strong contacts with Olympic and sport researchers in Puerto Rico, the country which I focused my first book “The Sovereign Colony: Olympic sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico” (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016). Puerto Rico is special because it is the only Latin American nation that has Olympic sovereignty without having political sovereignty. There are various collections in outdoor trailers in urgent need of digitization and/or proper cataloging. Another goal is to foster intellectual exchanges between Latin American sport scholars and University of Illinois faculty and students. Ideally, we would have enough funds for Latin American researchers to visit us, give talks, and use our collections. For these scholars, doing research in one of the best and biggest libraries in the world would be a tremendous boost in their scholarship, and give them the opportunity for dialogue with our scholars. The same idea applies to our researchers traveling to Latin America and the Caribbean. Benefiting from direct contact with their colleagues in Latin America and the Caribbean would give them a much needed perspective to their projects that cannot be appreciated staying in Urbana-Champaign. There is an active community of scholars and graduate students here studying different aspects of sport and recreation globally. With the attention of the sports world in Rio this year, the ground is fertile for studies of Latin American sport or using Latin America as a comparison to other areas.
Library Friends with interest in supporting the Latin American and Caribbean Collection, should contact the Library’s Office of Advancement.
For more photos from Dr. Antonio Sotomayor’s trip to Brazil, visit https://www.library.illinois.edu/friends/brazil-photos/.