Quote: “Despite the patronizing, xenophobic, and elitist attitude of its leaders, sports became the reason many Puerto Ricans kept going to the YMCA, and why many more enrolled and attended their tournaments.”

When you read this quote from Antonio Sotomayor’s text, it is easy to see how the YMCA organization was the defining factor that ultimately tethered Puerto Rico to the U.S. When the mission to convert these Puerto Ricans to Christianity failed, sports was its failsafe in a way. Puerto Rico, who was previously ruled by the Spanish for nearly four centuries, chose to evade this new Protestant teaching that the Americans hoped to spread in order to help the assimilation process go smoother. Yet, the YMCA was actually a partial success due to the sporting events that gained unprecedented attention and enjoyment from the Puerto Ricans. It is important to remember that these sports were not exactly new to them, but the Christian value of “strength” spoke volume to them and they sought to embrace this characteristic as well as the Americanization that fueled capitalism in these smaller countries. It was these political and economic strategies that really interested these people. It was a departure from their prior practices with the Spanish monarchy who were at times oppressive over their country of Puerto Rico. But going back to the quote, there were some who resisted these practices and stayed put in their beliefs concerning religion. Catholicism was the religion the Spaniards which many had taken on as their religious identity. This demographic of Puerto Ricans who resisted to the new American teachings of Protestantism constituted the wealthier people of the country. But even they could not resist the popularity of sports and ultimately the YMCA successfully embedded itself into Puerto Rican culture which allowed American imperialism to boom during the early 1900s.

Both the Spanish American War and WW1 were important events for the fostering of the YMCA in the Caribbean. It allowed the organization to influence the mobilized soldiers and equipping them with Christian values which, in turn, influenced the Puerto Ricans during these wars. Right before the start the WW1, America granted full citizenship to all Puerto Ricans, though this act was more of a “symbolic” title that helped them embrace their national identity.