and Joshua Nadel’s
new book, Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America
(University of Texas Press, 2019), uncovers the hidden history of the arrival of physical education for girls in the late-nineteenth century, it’s expansion beyond schools, and the subterranean struggles of girls and women to play and expand access and support for sports across Latin America. While sports has often been sidelined in histories of gender, class, nationalism, and the so-called Social Question in the region, Elsey and Nadel show how women’s involvement in sports animated eugenic debates over healthy citizens, nationalism, and proper motherhood in government, the Church, and the press. Beginning with women’s sports clubs in schools and moving to charity events, informal play, and regional leagues, women began to take up previously denied national and international pastimes much earlier than previously acknowledged. With women’s sports facing opposition, underfunding, neglect, silence, and outright outlawing (in the case of futbol in Brazil) throughout the twentieth century and up to the current World Cup, the authors show how generations of women athletes’ struggles and memories wove together a vibrant history of play, competition, and resilience. Despite the title, the book explores women’s involvement in tennis, track, gymnastics, basketball, and futbol (soccer), and medical and media debates over which activities were “properly” or “improperly” feminine for women’s psychology, bodies, and futures as mother’s. It covers case studies in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Costa Rica, and El Salvador.
Jesse Zarley will be an assistant professor of history at Saint Joseph’s College on Long Island, where in Fall 2019 he will be teaching Latin American, Caribbean, and World History. His research interests include borderlands, ethnohistory, race, and transnationalism during Latin America’s Age of Revolution, particularly in Chile and Argentina. He is the author of a recent article on Mapuche leaders and Chile’s independence wars. You can follow him on Twitter.