Pitching Democracy: Baseball and Politics in the Dominican Republic, 1955-1978
Yoder, April Rena
"Pitching Democracy" details how Dominicans used baseball to communicate their expectations for democratic society in their interactions with their government, the United States, other Latin Americans, and each other during the rapid political transitions of the period 1955-1978. Dominicans experienced the full brunt of Cold War politics during this period as their country passed from the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, through an interim government, to a social democracy under Juan Bosch that fell to a military coup after only seven months. The dissertation explains how Dominicans continued their struggle to create a democracy dedicated to economic opportunity for all even after the fall of Bosch as they rallied around baseball as they pushed against the economic policies of first the de facto military-civilian regime and later the civilian authoritarian regime headed by Joaquín Balaguer.Secretary of Sports documents, newspapers, and oral history interviews revealed Dominican understandings of social, political, and economic progress as they positioned themselves between the United States and Cuba in the ways they played, talked about, organized, and watched baseball. By examining this positioning and how Dominicans saw their nation's place in Latin American relations, "Pitching Democracy" demonstrates Dominicans' engagement with the ideological debates of the Cold War. Their interactions with baseball representatives from the United States and Cuba influenced the meanings that Dominicans projected onto baseball and democracy. Rather than accept the consumer-based conception of freedom emanating from the United States, Dominicans pushed the Balaguer Government to develop a political and economic third way that avoided both the social revolution promoted by Cuba and the docile mimicking of the United States. Efforts by business leaders in the Cibao region to define a new baseball league as an industry legitimated President Joaquín Balaguer's development policies while protecting Dominican ownership of the baseball industry--to a degree.Through this synthesis of political and sports history, we come to see how Dominicans imagined and enacted democracy in counter to and in cooperation with US interests during the Cold War and the deep historical linkages between the favorite Dominican pastimes of baseball and politics.
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