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Reviewed by:
  • Olimpismo: The Olympic Movement in the Making of Latin America and the Caribbean ed. by Cesar Torres and Antonio Sotomayor
  • Luiz Guilherme Burlamaqui
Torres, Cesar, and Antonio Sotomayor, eds. Olimpismo: The Olympic Movement in the Making of Latin America and the Caribbean. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2020. Pp. 254. Index and illustrations. $29.95, pb. $16.75, eb.

It is not unusual for historians and social scientists to present the history of Latin America and the Caribbean as a footnote in world history. A common procedure is first to examine the history of the United States and Europe and then look back to Latin America to explain many of the sociocultural and political phenomena of the region. More often, the agency of Latin America in the making of international order is simply neglected. In the past years, however, growing numbers of scholars are trying to change this approach by examining Latin American history through its own lenses. The book Olimpismo, edited by Cesar Torres and Antonio Sotomayor, follows the emergence and consolidation of this movement. In this sense, the book is a great contribution not only to the history of sports literature but also to understanding the role of Latin America in the making of twentieth-century history. [End Page 89]

By criticizing the Eurocentric approach to the history of the Olympic movement, the authors build a "more balanced perspective" not just considering Euro–American agency in international Olympic order but also the fundamental Latin American contributions in making this movement international. Here, as editors point out, "[T]he study of the development of the Olympic Movement in Latin America and the Caribbean serves as an effective medium [my emphasis] to understand the making of these societies" (7).

The undergirding argument of the book is borne out by two chapters, one of which opens the book and is written by Shunsuke Matsuo, "Sport Policy, the YMCA, and the Early History of Olympism in Uruguay." It is well known that Uruguay became two-time Olympic football champion in 1924 and 1928, then hosted the first FIFA World Cup in 1930, but "virtually no research has examined how this tiny country … became involved with the Olympic movement" (13). Retrospectively, the victory of the Uruguay football team was the final episode in a series of political struggles that occurred in the battlista government in 1910s. The battlista political project was to expand the services provided by the state. In it, sports would have a fundamental role in improving the health and wellbeing of the population. Matsuo reflects on the importance to think about "the local actors not as passive recipients [my emphasis] of external influence but as active vehicles of global Olympic expansion" (30), by showing how this national project fostered international networks, connecting actors from YMCA, IOC, and the Uruguay government.

Moreover, April Yoder's "Un compromiso de tod@s: Women, Olympism and the Dominican Third Way" reflects on the preparation and hosting of the Twelfth Central American and Caribbean Games by the Dominican Republic in 1974. During the Cold War, in a project led by President Joaquin Balaguer, the Central American Games intended to showcase internationally the Dominican "Third Way" model that combined democracy, a capitalist economy, and planned development. The Balaguer project "combined both US Cold War rhetoric of rights and freedom and the Soviet and Cuban rhetoric of justice" (134). The Central American Games increased the hope of Dominican women with greater participation in the national politics and sports, as women across the globe advocated for more participation in sports competitions. As Yoder points out, "[B]y invoking democracy as they claimed their placed on the sport field, Dominican women … secured their place on national fields and their inclusion in the Olympic Movement" (134).

Even if—as Christopher Gaffney states in the conclusion—the nine authors featured in this collection are predominantly male, "reflecting the status quo of sport scholarship" (197), one must note the diversity of spaces (eight different countries), themes (paralympic sport and national identity; women sports and politics; nation-building and the Cold War) and chronological range (from the end of the nineteenth century to the 2016 Rio Olympics) covered by the authors...


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