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63 2/ The Rise of a Colonial Olympic Movement, 1930s The 1930s are considered transcendental for Puerto Rican politics, culture, and economy. After three decades of U.S. presence, Puerto Rican politics and culture mainly revolved around a single crop economy—sugar—dominated by absentee owners from the United States. During the first two decades of U.S. occupation, the local economy did not experience the widespread progress that the military governors of 1898 had promised. With the effects of the Great Depression in the island, Puerto Ricans faced even more pronounced and dire conditions.1 As a result, social and political instability swept the island, producing numerous strikes that brought clashes, often fatal, between the police and the Partido Nacionalista. In response autonomists and other liberals formed new alliances and new parties , including the Partido Popular Democrático in 1938, to tackle different ways of solving the country’s crisis. Although the punitive Tydings Bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1936 and would have granted independence to Puerto Ricans, it failed. Puerto Ricans then sought ameliorative reforms to maintain an association with the United States. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration (1933–45) instituted a comprehensive set of economic reforms and relief programs exemplified by the New Deal. In Puerto Rico these programs took the form of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration and the Puerto Rican Emergency Relief Administration. To some extent sport during the 1930s was a cultural and recreational way to mitigate the political and social instability of the decade. Like the country’s economic and social conditions, sports and 64 / Rise of a Colonial Olympic Movement athletics developed to a limited extent until the 1940s and 1950s, when they flourished. The public education system, led by the U.S.-born University High School (uhs) principal George Keelan, continued organizing athletic meets and spreading athletic culture throughout the island. The uhs became the leader and model of a sound educational institution for the promotion and success of interscholastic sports. Athletics evolved despite setbacks and struggles for athletic equipment and facilities. The role of the education system in the development and modernization of sport in Puerto Rico was not unique within Latin America; there are many similarities, including the premier role of state agencies in the centralized regulation of sport and recreation in Latin America and elsewhere.2 The development of sport through the public school system was not limited to the high school level but continued at the University of Puerto Rico. Under the leadership of Cosme Beitía as director of athletics, a program in physical education was created in 1937, and the upr became the producer of Puerto Rican national athletes and the leader of athletics in the island. Beitía obtained a master’s degree in physical education at Columbia University and a law degree from upr and became a lieutenant in the 65th Infantry of Puerto Rico of the U.S. Army. One of Puerto Rico’s best athletes, he was considered , along with the brothers Ciqui and Fabito Faberllé, and Gacho Torres, one of Puerto Rico’s “four horsemen of baseball.” He was a devoted follower of Coubertin’s Olympism and the value of sportsmanship .3 With the growth of pe as a legitimate pedagogical subject, leaders in the education system saw it additionally as a practical way to improve social conditions. That is, the healthy human body was seen as the first and most important component of a modernized Puerto Rico. Beitía viewed sports and athletes as necessary to lift up the nation. Because of his passion for and leadership in sports he was made the official trainer of the Puerto Rican National delegation at the Central American and Caribbean Games of 1935 in El Salvador and 1938 in Panama. Rise of a Colonial Olympic Movement / 65 The 1930s were also characterized by a growing concern over ideas of the nation. Defining the nation was a concern in the minds of many Puerto Rican intellectuals, most prominently Antonio S. Pedreira, but also for other Caribbean and Latin Americans, including Fernando Ortiz and Jorge Mañach in Cuba, José Vasconcelos in Mexico, and Gilberto Freyre in Brazil. Puerto Ricans were ready to partake in a broader current of identity that had been present in other parts of the continent.4 In his analysis of sport in the Southern Cone, César Torres writes, “During the first thirty years of the twentieth century sport is transformed into...


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