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161 5/ A Cold War Playing Field in the 1966 Central American and Caribbean Games The tenth Central American and Caribbean Games (X cacg) of 1966 in San Juan became for Puerto Ricans the event to showcase progress and the best indicator that Puerto Rico was a legitimate nationmember of a sporting international community, a stable and a vital member of Central American and Caribbean Olympism, having participated in all editions of the Games since the second in 1930. Puerto Rico’s résumé in the region’s Olympism left no doubt that this was a sporting powerhouse. Now, as hosts, Puerto Ricans opened their doors to their regional neighbors in order to show their national vitality, athletic prowess, modernization, and cultural uniqueness. After the creation of the commonwealth in 1952, the consolidation of Olympic leadership in the 1950s, and continuing participation in the Pan-American and Summer Olympic Games, there was no doubt that Puerto Rico was a nation, at least culturally.1 Granted, this nationhood was internationally visible and applicable only in sport, but it was a nation nonetheless. With the growing popularity and precedence given to Olympic competition worldwide, having such a presence equaled for many the status of nationhood. The X cacg of 1966 in San Juan became the climax of this journey. The X cacg became not only a showcase of development and nationhood, but also, unwillingly, of its inherent colonial status. Faced with the problems of communist Cuba and the uncertainty of its participation, the games were a window through which to view colonial and regional politics, colonial Olympism, and the cold war conflict. In fact the dilemma of banning or inviting the Cubans to the games reflected cold war principles, bringing an air of hostility 162 / A Cold War Playing Field to the Caribbean once again. In the end these games demonstrated that while all parties involved tried to keep Olympism and politics separate, doing so ultimately proved impossible. Olympism became a political game, in which Puerto Ricans, U.S. Americans, Cubans, the ioc, and the Soviet bloc were directly involved. Tie Game: Politics and Sport in Latin America The X cacg of 1966 are special because an Olympic delegation was denied participation for political reasons. Puerto Rican authorities denied the invitation and opposed the issue of visas to the Cuban delegation, alleging that the presence of a delegation among approximately twenty thousand Cuban exiles in Puerto Rico constituted a threat to the stability and security of the island. The Cuban exiles and the Puerto Rican conservatives collaborated with the state, both Puerto Rican and U.S., in right-wing “colonial state terrorism.”2 From 1967 to 1986 Cuban exiles and the Puerto Rican right, condoned by the government, carried out 106 terrorist attacks that included destruction of property, usually with explosives, political assassinations , kidnappings and disappearances, and psychological warfare.3 These attacks could be considered the start of a rightist alliance of anticommunist repression in Puerto Rico. In this chapter I detail the process that led to the denial of Cuban visas and its diplomatic consequences. First, however, we need to recognize that Puerto Rican opposition to the visas was not the first time communist Cuba was denied visas to an athletic event in the area. Though it was unsuccessful, there had been a movement to deny visas to the Cuban delegation for the IX cacg of 1962 in Kingston , Jamaica; Cuban athletes were denied visas to the ioc-sponsored XVI World Cup of Baseball in Colombia in 1965; and they were denied visas by the Guatemalan government for the soccer finals of the ioc-sponsored Confederation of North, Central American, and Caribbean Association Football in 1965 and, as a result, were denied visas for the regional soccer competitions in Curaçao.4 The A Cold War Playing Field / 163 politics of exclusion and denial affected others besides Cuba. Up to the 1910s Coubertin himself was against the inclusion of women in Olympism, and in 1948 the Soviet Union (still not a participant in the Olympic Games) made a condition before joining the ioc: to ban Franco’s Spain due to its antagonism during World War II.5 In 1962 Indonesian authorities hosting the fourth Asian Games denied visas to Israel and the Republic of China (Taiwan) due to religious and political objections from the People’s Republic of China and Arab countries.6 Visa denial occurred in nonsporting events as well. In the summer of 1966, the United States denied visas...


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