When the United States took possession of Puerto Rico in 1898, an aggressive Americanization project introduced cultural practices, including American sports. However, although Puerto Ricans incorporated U.S. sports to their sporting profile, they did so adhering to a larger Hispanic-American ideology. Although soccer, or fútbol, was played in Puerto Rico during the first decades of the United States occupation, it was associated with Spain and Hispanoamericanismo. Due to this, soccer was discriminated and unpopular in a population that incorporated American sports. I argue that through soccer we see another important element in the negotiation over U.S. imperialism in Puerto Rico and in the broader expansion of Hispanoamericanismo in the early twentieth century. Despite its unpopularity, soccer's limited space within Puerto Rican sports came to symbolize a Hispanic and Latin American sport, helping to fuel broader notions of nationhood. In this regard, Puerto Rican soccer illustrates the conciliation of a colonial nation hoping to fit within Latin America, while also adopting American sports. Through Puerto Rican soccer we can observe broader cultural and political negotiations over Americanization and Hispanidad in the Spanish Caribbean and how this process can in turn help develop strong ideas of national identity.
- Puerto Rico
- Sport History