Colonial Olympism: Puerto Rico and Jamaica's Olympic Movement in Pan-American Sport, 1930 to the 1950s

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This paper examines how two Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico and Jamaica, developed ideas of national identity while negotiating political emancipation within two distinct, yet allied Anglophone empires. We can see this process through the Olympic movement and referred to here as 'colonial Olympism'. Both Puerto Rico and Jamaica participated as colonies of the USA and Great Britain at international sporting events from 1930 to the 1950s. More than a benevolent gesture by the USA or Great Britain, Puerto Rico and Jamaica's participation was intended to foster international goodwill through sport, including crucial notions of Pan Americanism. Comparing these two islands, and the metropolises they represented, offers a good way to understand the commonalities and differences in the US and Great Britain's geopolitical interests in Latin America. However, the Olympic and the Pan-American Games gave both colonies the perfect scenario to perform as separate nations and fed a sense of distinct peoplehood. Sport leaders from both islands negotiated their way into nationhood by the very fact of participating in the Olympic movement, albeit as non-sovereign states. In turn, having Olympic nationhood became another important tool in both islands' quest for decolonization, contributing an important angle to better understand twentieth-century international politics and decolonization processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)84-104
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 22 2016


  • Colonial Olympism
  • Jamaica
  • Puerto Rico
  • colonialism
  • national identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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