Operation Sport: A Top-Down/Bottom-Up Model of Modernization in Puerto Rico in the 1950s

Thursday, January 2, 2014: 2:00 PM
Council Room (Omni Shoreham)
Antonio Sotomayor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This paper will discuss the ways in which the development of sport and recreation programs was used in 1950s Puerto Rico to help consolidate a political movement. The 1950s was a pivotal decade in the development of modern Puerto Rican history with the creation of the Commonwealth in 1952 and the innovative economic project known as Operation Bootstrap. The development of sport and recreation in this decade, a process I like to call Operation Sport, can be seen as a significant aid to achieve popular consent to these changes. That is, Operation Sport was designed to provide the industrial masses with athletic facilities and recreational/cultural activities to assuage the impact of dramatic industrialization occurring under Operation Bootstrap, in turn the backbone of the Commonwealth. These facilities and programs were mainly successful because they were carried out in collaboration between the government and the people. People were encouraged to take the lead in the establishment of these centers of sport and recreation, empowering the masses and redefining Latin American top-down/bottom-up negotiations of space and political agency. Encouraging the people to take the lead in the development of their wellbeing through sport meant that they were protagonists in the overall progress of a modernizing country.
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