Champion of the Patria: Kid Chocolate, Athletic Achievement, and the Significance of Race for Cuban National Aspiration Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Casimir, Enver Michel
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • As the country's first world champion in the sport of boxing, Kid Chocolate was enormously popular among Cubans when he fought professionally between 1928 and 1938, and remains a national hero to this day. This dissertation focuses on Cuban reactions to the career of Kid Chocolate in order to examine how racial ideology factors into the link between sport and Cuban nationalism. It argues that the close link between sport and nationalism in Cuba preceded the triumph of the socialist revolution of 1959, and was directly related to the role that athletic competition, particularly boxing, took on globally as a site for the articulation and contestation of notions of racial and national hierarchy by the 1920s. Sport emerged as an important mode of nationalist expression in Cuba because it helped to address specific concerns regarding race and the feasibility of the Cuban nation-building project. Through his success as a professional boxer in North American rings, Kid Chocolate not only ignited a sense of national pride among Cubans, he also directly challenged racial ideologies of the era that cast African descended peoples as incapable and inferior. Thus he helped to allay Cuban fears that the African heritage of a significant portion of the population doomed the newly independent nation to backwardness and poverty. In addition to demonstrating the feasibility of using athletic achievement to bolster national prestige, Chocolate helped create the niche of the hero-athlete as a means of discursively integrating Afro-Cuban men into the nation-building project. The power of Chocolate's example drew on a tradition of highlighting the role of Afro-Cuban men as perpetrators of legitimate violence on behalf of the nation; a tradition that had its roots in the wars for independence. As a result, his career both reflected and reinforced a celebration of a hierarchical fraternity between white men and men of color for the good of the nation, as well as the notion that the principal way in which men of color could contribute to Cuban nation-building was through physical exertion.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of History."
  • Pérez, Louis A.
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  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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