Sport, the City, and the Nation in Latin America, 1930–75

AHA Session 49
Conference on Latin American History 7
Thursday, January 7, 2016: 3:30 PM-5:30 PM
Room M104 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level)
Rwany Sibaja, Appalachian State University
Joshua Nadel, North Carolina Central University

Session Abstract

This panel aims to explore the ideas and policies behind organized sport in cities across mid-twentieth century Latin America, as well as their implications for nations and national narratives. The panelists examine the history of urban sport through a variety of lenses, including the built environment, sporting spectacles, and the sporting narratives imbued with ideas about race, ethnicity, gender, class, regions, and the nation. While the history of sport was long considered to be reflective rather than constitutive of broader currents, this panel builds upon a raft of scholarship that re-centers sport in the cities and nations of Latin America. The panelists ask how sport was a means through which ideas and policies related to ethnicity, national identity, health, morality, domestic political economy, and international relations were projected, tested, and in some cases overturned. How and why did governments and sporting administrators deploy sporting infrastructure and sporting events in their cities? How did urban residents challenge the expressed objectives of sporting initiatives? How effective were cities as beacons of sporting ideas and practices vis-à-vis rural hinterlands? What does the commentary around sport tell us about contested identities and when did sporting narratives themselves influence cultural change? What was the role of sport in Latin American cities in contexts of migration, political instability, international conflicts, and the Cold War?

This panel brings together the histories of sport and the city in Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Manaus, Brazil, and Santiago, Dominican Republic. Ariel Svarch notes that a stylized language around horse racing epitomized the urban identity of twentieth-century porteños (residents of Buenos Aires). Svarch’s paper considers the implications for urban, ethnic, and national identities when a leading newspaper introduced a Jewish-Argentine character to cover the races in 1930. In mid-twentieth century Mexico City, sport also became a key ingredient in the identification and projection of ideas about the city and the nation. David J. Wysocki’s paper analyzes how the Mexican government aimed to present the capital city as a model for the nation through the 1955 Pan-American Games. Similar objectives informed the construction and high-profile unveiling of a large-scale soccer stadium in Manaus, Brazil, in 1970. Christopher Brown’s paper argues that policy-makers and sporting administrators built stadiums and organized sporting spectacles in Manaus – to varying degrees of success - both to symbolize and stimulate the city’s connections with its Amazonian hinterland and the nation. Also concerned with the use of sport as a proxy and stimulant of economic integration, April Yoder’s paper analyzes how the Dominican Republic’s Balaguer government backed a national baseball league to reinforce support for the industrialization of the nation. Together, the panelists aim to discuss the development and significance of sporting projects and sporting commentary in Latin American cities, and the role of the ‘sporting city’ in ideas and practices of the nation and national identity.

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