The Making and Remaking of White Lightning in Cuba: Politics, Sport, and Physical Education Thirty Years after the Revolution
This chapter first appeared as an article in The Arena Review in 1990 and is reproduced here in its entirety. Since then, however, there have been significant changes both in Cuban sport and in the country’s position in the world’s political economy. Cuba’s mentor and major trading partner, the Soviet Union, has ceased to exist and the island no longer receives aid or favorable terms of trade from eastern Europe. Despite the ending of the cold war, President Clinton’s administration in the United States continues to enforce an economic blockade of Cuba. In combination, these have had a devastating effect on the island’s economy which is nearly bankrupt. The short term effects of the country’s economic plight on sport were not immediately obvious. The impressive sports facilities which were under construction on the outskirts of Havana during the authors’ 1990 visit were completed in time for the hosting of the Pan American Games in August, 1991. Significantly, as predicted, the Cubans did very well in Barcelona in 1992 in their return to Olympic competition after a 12-year absence. They were fourth in terms of medals accumulated (31), behind the USA, the Unified Team (of the former Soviet Union) and the newly reunited Germany. Cuba’s boxers were particularly impressive in their domination of the ring in Barcelona with seven gold medals.