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Impossible Roads: Cycling Landscapes and Cultural Representation in Colombia, 1930-1958.

  • Author(s): Morales Fontanilla, Manuel
  • Advisor(s): Hunefeldt, Christine;
  • Edelman, Robert
  • et al.

This dissertation analyzes the social, cultural, and political importance of competitive cycling in Colombia from 1930 to 1958. It examines the sport from the appearance of the first races until its consolidation as a popular mass phenomenon. The dissertation claims that competitive cycling was a place where Colombians could represent themselves to themselves and others. It shows how several agents within the cycling field such as cyclists, journalists, civilian authorities, and spectators addressed national debates on regionalism, politics, class relations, masculinity, and social unrest. In chapter one, the dissertation discusses the place that sports had in Colombian society during the early 1930s and how sporting activities became part of the country’s consumer culture. It also illustrates, from an institutional point of view, the government’s intervention in sports through the formation of the National Commission of Physical Education. The chapter ends with an examination of the first Bolivarian Games held in Bogotá in 1938. Chapter two traces the emergence of cycling as a free time activity in the early twentieth century and the way in which cycling enthusiasts first organized the sport in Colombia. The chapter evaluates the assembly of the National Cycling Association and the celebration of the first-ever national championship in 1946. Chapter three describes the popularization of competitive cycling and the role played by the private sector through the formation of Colombia’s Industrial and Commercial Sporting Federation. The chapter finishes with an account of the way in which La Vuelta a Colombia, the country’s most important stage race, was imagined and organized. Chapter four focuses on the celebration of the first ever Vuelta a Colombia in 1951, and its social, economic, political, and cultural impact. It also shows how the “big Colombian race” became a site for the production of meanings and representations about the country and its people. Chapter five addresses La Vuelta’s regional symbolisms and examines the way in which the race was used politically during the military regime of General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. The chapter also dissects how pedalers such as Ramón Hoyos Vallejo became recognized public figures and cultural icons nationwide.

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