Ancient Mayan ball game in which a team was sacrificed at the end of each tournament is revived in Mexico
The municipality of Umán, in the state of Yucatán, has decided to promote the practice of the ball game to rescue the Mayan culture and support young people, instilling pride in their origins.
The game of "Pok Ta Pok" was a fundamental part of the classic Mayan culture; in Yucatan vestiges of its practice and playgrounds have been found in several places, such as Chichen Itzá.
The story goes that for the ancient Maya it was a power game between tribes. Teams of up to five players were formed and losers were sacrificed.
In the municipality of Umán, this tradition is being rescued, which is why the "Pok Ta Pok" school has been created for young people aged 12 and over.
There are two schools in the state constituted and registered with the Mexican Federation of Autochthonous Games and Sports and Traditions A.C.
The first was created in Tahdzibichén and has about 10 and 15 members. The second, more recently created, is the municipality of Umán, which currently has 5 students between the ages of 17 and 20.
Throughout the peninsula, there are different independent groups due to the rise of the "Pok Ta Pok", participating in different representations in the municipalities.
"The Pok Ta Pok game is a bit difficult. It's a ball that weighs about three kilos, the clothes closest to the antiquity, which is what causes people or youth not to be able to practice because of the pain, the shame," said coach César Enrique Solís Montero, who emphasized the fact that Mexicans should be proud of their culture and preserve it.
The game consists of passing a ball through stone hoops located on the sides of the court, hitting it only with the hips. In ancient times there were games that lasted up to three days. Today, however, they do not last that long.
For the coach, the ball game is not only a sport but a ritual. "We talk about our culture when we play; we meet each other, we try to get into what we're going to do. We cease to exist on the planet and enter the Mayan ball game. They play native music for us and we try to transport ourselves to what it means to us."
The player, Luis Ángel Ramírez Solís, recently participated in an international competition in Tihosuco, Quintana Roo, which brought together the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, as well as Belize, to commemorate the 171st anniversary of the "War of the Castes" (1847-1901) that pitted Mayan natives defending their lands and customs against criollos and mestizos.
"It was my first competition and that was a very new experience because to see people coming together in one place to watch this old game and play a final against Belize is not just anything," Ramírez said.
A number of young people have adopted this new sport as part of their daily lives and have even given up football in order to be among the first to form a team that competes against other states.
The Pok Ta Pok school opens its doors to all youngsters from the age of 12 who are interested in participating.