Latin American Studies Sports in Latin America and the Caribbean
Antonio Sotomayor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 April 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 22 April 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0234


Latin America and the Caribbean are regions that for more than 520 years have witnessed exceptional mixtures and exchanges of civilizations and cultures from all corners of the world, which clearly sets them apart from other places. This rich diversity is also seen through their experiences in sports. Latin America and the Caribbean have distinctive histories of sport that merit attention and study. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in continental Latin America, while baseball is more popular in the Caribbean, including the Caribbean shores of Mexico, Central, and South America. For a separate bibliography on football (soccer) in Latin America see the separate Oxford Bibliographies article Football (Soccer) in Latin America. In this article we focus on other sports, as they can also provide us with important diverse vistas into Latin American and Caribbean dynamics. Baseball is the prime sport in the broader Caribbean. As one of the foremost sports in the United States, baseball has deep connections with this North American country, which in turn has a deep and problematic relationship with Latin American and Caribbean societies. Given the importance of baseball in this region of Latin America and the Caribbean, one full section of this article is devoted to this sport. Yet Latin American and Caribbean sport is more than football (soccer) and baseball. Indigenous societies practiced their own games, and elements of indigeneity can be seen presently. Some readings on indigenous games and indigeneity in today’s sports are provided. Sports such as horse racing, marathon running, and even sports such as bowling and billiards, have been practiced since colonial times. By the 19th century, many Latin American and Caribbean societies practiced cycling, boxing, swimming, athletics, and gymnastics, while many educators advocated for physical education curriculums nationally. Basketball, volleyball, car racing, tennis, golf, and many others were practiced in the 20th century, all contributing in different ways to making vibrant and diversified sport and athletic societies throughout the regions. Particularly important in Latin American and Caribbean sport is the regions’ involvement in the Olympic Movement, since its early revival in the modern era. José Bejamín Zubiar from Argentina was among the thirteen founders of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1894 and Latin American and Caribbean individuals have participated at the Olympic Games since 1896. The oldest regional games patronized by the IOC are the Central American and Caribbean Games held since 1926. Before that, Argentina held the Centennial Olympic Games in 1910, Dominican Republic organized their own Olympic Games in 1915, and in 1922 Brazil hosted the Latin American Games. The Pan-American Games, one of the world’s largest multi-sports event after the Olympic Games, have been held since its first hosting in Buenos Aires in 1951. Buenos Aires hosted the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. This bibliography is only a selection of the material on Latin American and Caribbean sport published since the late 1990s and 2000, excluding soccer/fútbol/balompié/futebol. For material pre-2000 see Joseph Arbena’s bibliographies (cited under Bibliographies). Sports can be studied through many disciplines, but the readings and materials listed here focus on the humanistic social sciences, humanities, and related fields. There was an effort to include all countries, but those with more literature will be represented more completely.

General Overviews

Academic monographs of general overviews of sports for Latin America and the Caribbean are rare. One is Elsey and Nadel 2019, which studies women and sport, focusing on football. Otherwise, a few edited volumes have become classic overviews of sport in Latin America and the Caribbean. Arbena 1988 and Arbena and LaFrance 2002 have become masterworks and basic readings, as well as Mangan and DaCosta 2002, particularly the authors’ introductions. Alabarces 2009 is a good short standalone introduction in Spanish, and Torres and Campos 2010 also provides a good overview of key general issues in the field. An early Latin American collection in Spanish is Aisenstein, et al. 2001. These authors hereby mentioned represent some of the most accomplished scholars in the field. Malec 1995 is the only author who has written a monographic volume of sport in the Caribbean as a region.

  • Aisenstein, Angela, Roberto Di Giano, Julio Frydenberg, and Tulio Guterman, eds. Estudios sobre deportes. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Libros del Rojas, 2001.

    One of the early collection of essays on the academic study of sport in Latin America from Latin America and in Spanish. Gathers pre-eminent and new scholars that approach sports from the point of view of the social sciences and humanities. Themes discussed include culture and identity, power relations and politics, the media, and education, among others.

  • Alabarces, Pablo. “El deporte en América Latina.” Razón y Palabra 14.69 (2009): 1–19.

    Introductory and concise overview of sport in Latin America and the Caribbean by one of Latin America’s most notable scholars in the field.

  • Arbena, Joseph L., ed. Sport and Society in Latin America: Diffusion, Dependency, and the Rise of Mass Culture. New York: Greenwood Press, 1988.

    A foundational work for Latin American and Caribbean sport scholarship. This book was pioneering at a time when sport as an academic field was not widely supported. It contains eight chapters addressing topics such as modernization, identity, political consolidation, dictatorship, democracy and citizenship, and revolution through sports such as bicycles, football (soccer), baseball, and more. Countries covered include Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Latin America as a whole.

  • Arbena, Joseph L., and David G. LaFrance, eds. Sport in Latin America and the Caribbean. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2002.

    A continuation of his first book, here Joseph Arbena teamed up with David LaFrance to produce another important volume. The introduction is a fantastic overview of the field. This volume expands the conversation from the previous volume by adding thirteen chapters discussing issues such as the Catholic Church, identity, professionalization, Olympic Games, and through different sports like football (soccer), baseball, volleyball, basketball, and equestrian sport. Great for undergraduate teaching.

  • Elsey, Brenda, and Joshua Nadel. Futbolera: A History of Women and Sport in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2019.

    Monograph that studies women’s participation in sport in Latin America. Studies not only women’s participation, but also how they were discriminated against because of their gender, but also how they persisted in playing different sports, creating spaces for women’s solidarity. Although the work discusses and analyzes different sports, it mainly revolves around football. It also mainly covers Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Mexico.

  • Malec, Michael A. The Social Roles of Sport in Caribbean Societies. London: Routledge, 1995.

    The first book to academically study sport from the point of view of the insular Caribbean. Although a strong focus is given to cricket, other sports are analyzed including baseball, basketball, football (soccer), and horse racing. Countries include Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, St. Croix, and the Caribbean as a whole. While some chapters provide some historical sections, most analysis comes from sociological perspectives.

  • Mangan J. A., and LaMartine P. DaCosta, eds. Sport in Latin American Society: Past and Present. London: Frank Cass, 2002.

    This book is considered another foundational piece in the field. In addition to analyzing individual sports, many chapters take a broader look at sport in relation to European and/or English influence on Latin America, North American influence on Latin American sport, early sport development, the Olympic Movement, ritual and religion, and identities. While authors represent various disciplines, historical frameworks take precedence.

  • Torres, Cesar R., and Daniel G. Campos. “Philosophy of Sport in Latin America.” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 37 (2010): 292–309.

    DOI: 10.1080/00948705.2010.9714782

    Traces the development of the philosophy of sport in Latin America from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. Due to its broad scope and the centrality of ideologies about the role of sport in societies, this work can be considered a good general overview to sport in Latin America and the Caribbean, though perhaps for more advanced research.

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