Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Cristina Henriquez

Maeve Moynihan 

Cold War Sports Rivalries: The 1980 Ice Hockey Olympics

Immigrants’ Search for the American Identity in the Works of Cristina Henriquez

The Soviet Union and the United States have always had a competitive relationship in both sports and politics. During the Cold War, these two superpowers struggled to understand and respect each nation’s culture and political views. As tension rose between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, Cold War politics seeped into every aspect of their interactions, including sports. The 1980 Ice Hockey Olympic game altered the relationship between the U.S. and USSR, and forever changed sports history. Unlike the Soviet hockey team, the United States was never a powerhouse when it came to ice hockey. The 1980 Ice Hockey Olympic game between the Soviet Union and the United States was more than just a game, it was representative of Cold War political and cultural rivalries between the two superpowers. As a result of the miraculous U.S. victory, the athletic prestige and prowess of the Soviet Union diminished on the world stage.

Whereas the 1980 U.S. ice hockey team outwardly represented a clear American identity, for the immigrant characters of Cristina Henriquez’ novels and short stories, it can be a much greater challenge to fit into American society. Cristina Henriquez is best known for her short stories which depict the struggle of attaining the “American Dream” through her portrayal of immigrant children and their families as they work to make a place for themselves in the United States. In order to prosper in America, these characters must sacrifice their identities as members of their previous culture and home. In The Book of Unknown Americans, Mirabel Rivera feels both visible and invisible; coming to the U.S. from Panama to improve her health, she stands out in society because of she cannot speak English, but at the same time, is ignored by those she would like to communicate with. Mirabel, like all of Henriquez’ characters, is able to overcome the obstacles she faces, and in this way the Rivera family achieves the American dream.

Major Works Consulted:

Henriquez, Cristina. The Book of Unknown Americans. New York: Vintage Contemporaries, 2014.
---. Come Together, Fall Apart. New York: Penguin Group, 2006.
Mifflin, Lawrie. “U.S.A. Beats Soviet Union in “Miracle On Ice.’” The New York Times. Last Modified Feb. 22, 2012. Accessed February 2, 2017. 2012/02/22/ feb-22-1980-u-s-a-beats-soviet-union- in-miracle-on-ice/?_r=0.
Wilson Stevens, Elise. “Bruised Egos, Battles, and Boycott: The 1980 Moscow Olympics.” The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. Accessed February 2, 2017. -olympics.
Photo Credit: Reyes, Raul A. "Novelist Cristina Henriquez: Immmigrants As 'Unknown Americans.'" NBC News, unknown-americans-n276336. Accessed Mar. 3, 2017.