The first quixotic sports hero: Federico Martín Bahamontes and national identity creation in Spain
cycling, identity, nationalism, Spain, sport
Sport in History
Spain in the twentieth century was a country in search of a unified national identity. The Franco regime (1939–75) set this nationalising process as one of its main goals, in order to legitimise itself. In many senses this project failed, and many national symbols ended up with negative associations. This article argues that there was one successful example of promotion of that identity: the use of sports. The national press participated in this process by pushing the ideal of the Spanish quixotic hero, personified by several athletes in individual sports, including cyclist Federico Martín Bahamontes, the first Spanish winner of the Tour de France in 1959. Sports figures like Bahamontes represented this ideal through five main characteristics: idealism to succeed despite humble origins, moral values, perseverance in the face of adversity, irrational and impractical decisions, and heroism for the nation. All these characteristics are studied here through the words of newspapers from the time. The names of these athletes are still invoked today as pioneering examples of great Spaniards, which proves that this aspect of national identity was successful in becoming part of the Spanish collective identity.
Department of Languages and Literatures
Original Publication Date
DOI of published version
UNI ScholarWorks, Rod Library, University of Northern Iowa
Castillo, Juan Carlos, "The first quixotic sports hero: Federico Martín Bahamontes and national identity creation in Spain" (2021). Faculty Publications. 182.