From the inception f the field of sports history in the early 1970s, a major area of research regarding US sports history has been documenting how racial and ethnic minorities played, participated in, and used athletics for various purposes, such as to challenge negative ethnic stereotypes and to hold on to aspects of their own cultures. Several early projects dealt with baseball in the lives of African Americans, particularly about the Negro Leagues and their importance to civic life in the years after the Great Migration. Subsequently, scholars researched other groups and their experiences with sport. A worthwhile example of such works on Italian Americans (Baldassaro 2011) is noted under General Overviews and Related Articles. While the discipline has expanded, one glaring lacuna has remained: the participation of the Latino community in sport (at all levels) and the significance thereof. Fortunately, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries a few individuals have begun to remedy this gap. While certainly not the oldest project, the most important early work is Viva Baseball! Latin Major Leaguers and Their Special Hunger (Regalado 1998, cited under Baseball).
General Overviews and Related Articles
In regard to general overviews, scholars have focused not only on involvement on the field of athletics but also on athletes’ social and political significance. Of the overviews in this section, the most thorough is Latinos in US Sport: A History of Isolation, Cultural Identity, and Acceptance (Iber, et al. 2011), which proffers a fairly comprehensive chronological synopsis of participation and reveals the value of athletics to the barrio and to broader society. Other works, while not discussing sports directly, influence this research too. For example, there are the essays on the supposed intellectual and cultural backwardness of these people (Anderson 1998, Blanton 2000). These works reveal how poorly the majority often perceived the intellectual and physical capabilities of Latinos and Latinas. Surely, whites thought, a people so culturally backward (and of limited intellect) could not succeed in modern, complex sports. Some sociologists and others (see Grey 1992, Erkut and Tracy 2002, and Ryska 2001) have investigated the capacity for success in athletics to challenge lingering negative notions about the growing and increasingly more dispersed Spanish-speaking population of the United States. A complete study of the role of sport (and other forms of leisure) in a specific community is in a work on Corona, California (Alamillo 2006). This project should serve as a model for researchers who want to conduct similar efforts elsewhere. Gems 2005 is an excellent example of how sport is useful in challenging notions of American hegemony. Baldassaro 2011 is an example of research on the value of sports (in this case, baseball) for other ethnic populations. This project can serve as an effective model for the study of Latinos and Latinas and sport.
Alamillo, José M. Making Lemonade out of Lemons: Mexican American Labor and Leisure in a California Town, 1880–1960. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2006.
An overview of the use of leisure, including sport, to help create and maintain identity, labor, and community cohesion among agricultural workers in Corona, California.
Anderson, Mark C. “‘What’s to Be Done with ’Em?’ Images of Cultural Backwardness, Racial Limitations, and Moral Decrepitude in the United States Press, 1913–1915.” Mexican Studies/ Estudios Mexicanos 14.1 (1998): 23–70.
A review of newspapers throughout the United States and their perspectives on the Mexican Revolution. The study provides a sense of how many whites in the United States perceived the intellectual, cultural, and physical “limitations” of their neighbors to the south.
Baldassaro, Lawrence. Beyond DiMaggio: Italian Americans in Baseball. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011.
Tracks the significance of baseball for the Italian American community, mostly in the Northeast and northern California, and also explores the social meaning and implications of the arrival of such players in the major leagues.
Blanton, Carlos Kevin. “‘They Cannot Master Abstractions, but They Can Often Be Made Efficient Workers’: Race and Class in the Intelligence Testing of Mexican Americans and African Americans in Texas during the 1920s.” Social Science Quarterly 81.4 (2000): 1014–1026.
Examines the notions derived by academics and educators as a result of testing minority youths in Texas during the 1920s. The results most often “confirmed” that such pupils had “limited capabilities” and that this would limit their contributions to society.
Erkut, Sumru, and Allison J. Tracy. “Predicting Adolescent Self-Esteem from Participation in School Sports among Latino Subgroups.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 24.4 (2002): 409–429.
Argues that there is a beneficial relationship between sports participation and Latinos, but the ties are not identical for all individual subgroups.
Gems, Gerald R. “Puerto Rico: Sport and the Restoration of National Pride.” International Journal of Regional and Local Studies 1.1 (2005): 107–120.
This work examines how success in athletics—in the boxing ring, for example—can be used to generate a discourse that challenges notions of Puerto Rican “limitations.”
Grey, Mark A. “Sport and Immigrant, Minority, and Anglo Relations in Garden City (Kansas) High School.” Sociology of Sport Journal 9.3 (1992): 255–270.
An overview of the challenges faced by Latino students as they seek to establish their roles in new locales both in the broader school population and on the field of athletic competition (through playing soccer).
Iber, Jorge, Samuel O. Regalado, José M. Alamillo, and Arnoldo De León. Latinos in U.S. Sport: A History of Isolation, Cultural Identity, and Acceptance. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2011.
A complete and ambitious project on this topic. This work seeks to provide a chronological overview of the role and significance of Latino and Latina sport participation in US sport at all levels.
Ryska, Todd A. “The Impact of Acculturation on Sport Motivation among Mexican-American Adolescent Athletes.” Psychological Record 51.4 (2001): 533–547.
Argues that the value of sport participation is based on acculturation and is not the same for Mexican American male and female adolescents.
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