Andrew Clem blog


Futbol / Soccer

¡Go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-l! For a sport in which scores are few and far between, it's the duty of announcers to make the most of each and every such precious occasion. To American ears, it's doubly strange to hear Latin Americans talking about "futbol," both because it's a borrowed English word and because it refers to the other "football," the one the rest of the world plays. There are professional soccer leagues in virtually every country in Latin America. By far the two biggest soccer stars from the past are the Brazilian "Pelé" (a.k.a. Edson Arantes do Nascimento), who played from 1956 to 1977, and the Argentinian Diego Maradona, who played from 1976 to 1997. It's interesting to note that every time the World Cup has been held in Latin America, a Latin American team has won.

Latin America in the World Cup

Year Champion Host country Socio-political context
1930 Uruguay Uruguay Depression-induced political-economic crisis throughout the region.
1950 Uruguay Brazil Post-WWII boom; the peak of Peron (Argentina) and Vargas (Brazil).
1958 Brazil Sweden Gradual stabilization and modernization, epitomized by Kubitschek.
1962 Brazil Chile Cold War tensions due to Castro; turmoil in Brazil, etc.
1970 Brazil Mexico Radical protests, insurgent movements, military governments.
1978 Argentina Argentina "Dirty war" repression; soccer matches possibly rigged by military government.
1986 Argentina Mexico Foreign debt and hyperinflation crisis; return to democracy.
1994 Brazil United States Rise of the "Washington Consensus," hemispheric cooperation.
1998 Brazil Japan / South Korea At peak of economic success, before financial crisis.

Beisbol / Baseball

In much of the Caribbean basin, baseball (or "beisbol" in Spanish) is the number one sport. Baseball was introduced to the region in the the late 19th Century, and became strongly established in several of those countries in the early 20th Century as a collateral effect of U.S. imperial power. Wherever U.S. cultural influence has been strongest, baseball has become more popular in Latin America. Indeed, in many cases baseball was introduced during U.S. military occupation. Fidel Castro is an avid baseball fan and once played himself. (If Fidel Castro had had better luck with his baseball career, the history of the Cold War might have turned out much differently!) It's one of the clearest examples of Latin America's "love-hate" relationship with the "Colossus of the North." Today roughly 30 percent of major league players come from Latin America, or are descendants of Latino families who grew up in the United States. Many of them supplement their earnings by playing "winter league" ball in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic. In the table below, the country names are links to a page in the Baseball section of this Web site that lists many of the teams, stadiums, and most famous players from the respective countries.

Estadio Dennis Martinez

Baseball-friendly countries

No. of pro teams Public interest Stadium pages
Colombia 0? Weak .
Cuba 0 Strong .
Dominican Republic 6 Very strong .
Mexico 16 Moderate Estadio Monterrey
Nicaragua 4 Moderate Estadio Dennis Martinez
Panama 0? Moderate .
Puerto Rico 6 Strong Hiram Bithorn Stadium
Venezuela 8 Moderate .


Popular in Mexico and Peru.

Horse racing

Popular in Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Peru.

Bicycle racing

Popular in Colombia, Venezuela, and to some extent Mexico.


Popular in Peru.

Jai Alai

A dangerous version of racketball, played with a long scoop instead of a racket. Popular in the Caribbean basin, including Florida.


Popular in Mexico and the Caribbean basin.

"Pro" wrestling

In Mexico, gaudily costumed, masked "crusaders" provide entertainment and inspiration to millions of urban poor people.