Native Village
Youth and Education news
 MAY 1, 2010   VOLUME 4

Mexico gives new life to ancient sports
by Sergio Solache
Condensed by Native Village

Mayan Ball Court and Bleachers

Mexico: About 150 pre-Hispanic games  are on the verge of extinction. Now Mexico has launched a new push to rescue these ancient pastimes.

"We want our kids to rediscover our roots through these traditional games," said Enriqueta Rosas.  "Our kids are drawn to foreign things and don't know the richness of our country."

Mexico City is building a new sports center for pre-Hispanic games.
The Mexican Sports Confederation is publishing books and rulebooks about the ancient games.
Government instructors will teach safe versions of these games to K-6 teachers.
It is hoped that schools across Mexico will organize teams.

Most of Mexico's traditional sports are ball games. They had deep social and religious importance to tribes across Mexico and Central America. The games are shown in artworks and in figurines buried with the dead.

In the Mayan creation myth, the gods of the underworld challenge the first two humans to a ballgame. The humans lose and are killed on the court, but their sons resurrect them and place their fathers in the sky as the sun and moon.

Every pre-Hispanic city had a ball court.  Tournaments often replaced war as a way to settle disputes between cities. Games could go on for days, and players were sometimes sacrificed to the gods.

These pre-hispanic Mexican games could be dangerous and painful:


Pelota purépecha is a sort of a field hockey for pyromaniacs. A five-player teams use oak or plum-tree clubs to whack a burning ball across a goal line. The fiery ball not only increases the game's intensity, but the flames makes it possible to play at night without lights.



In ulama, players use their hips to knock a heavy rubber ball through a stone ring. Sometimes, the ball had a human skull as its core. T

In pelota mixteca, players use leather gloves with metal knuckles to punch a 2-pound, hard rubber ball. The balls travel up to 40 mph and can knock a player unconscious. 

While Mexico is reviving their ancient sports, Mexican immigrants in America have also built ball courts and formed clubs to keep their ancient sports alive.

"Our goal is that our roots not be lost," said Michael Hernández. "We want the youth to think fondly of this sport so it won't die and be forgotten."


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