The Sovereign Colony
Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico
University of Nebraska Press 2016
New Books in Caribbean StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Latin American StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SportsNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network September 20, 2018 Keith Rathbone
Today we are joined by Antonio Sotomayor, Assistant Professor and Librarian of Latin American and Caribbean studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Sotomayor is the author of The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico (University of Nebraska Press, 2016), which asks the question of how a colonial possession became a “sovereign international athletic presence.”
In The Sovereign Colony, Sotomayor traces the history of Puerto Rican sports from its beginnings during Spanish rule, through the beginnings of American occupation and the promotion of American-style games, and into the solidification of the islands’ national identity through their athletic experiences in regional and international Olympic Games. He illuminates the ways in which the colonial Olympism of Puerto Rico raised questions about nationalism, sovereignty, and colonialism. For example, Sotomayor investigates a series of incidents centered on whether Puerto Rican athletes should compete under the Puerto Rican flag, the American flag, or something else entirely?
In addition, Sotomayor does not limit his history to issues of colonial oppression and resistance; he shows a more complicated picture that includes actors from Puerto Rico, the United States, and around the world. For example, he show how all three major political factions on the island – supporters of independence, autonomy, and statehood – manipulated island sports in order to promote their domestic political projects. His examination features a wide range of fascinating sportsmen including Julio Enrique Monagas who supported Puerto Rican athletics as a piece of the island’s modernization effort. The expansion of Puerto Rican sports also relied on wider geopolitical movements. Olympic organizers admitted Puerto Rico, even permitting the island to have a politically linked Olympic Committee, because it meant the expansion of Olympism into the Caribbean. Similarly, many American sportsmen supported Puerto Rican nationalism in sport as a way of promoting the global west during the Cold War.
The Sovereign Colony will have resonance to scholars interested in nationalism, political sovereignty, the international Olympic movement, and the global Cold War. (Many readers will also be interested in his depiction of Avery Brundage, who sympathized with Puerto Rican athletes and helped to promote the Puerto Rican Olympic Committee.)