The Mayan Game of Death
THE CAPTAIN OF THE TEAM HAD THE HONOR OF BEING DECAPITADED
The Popol Vul, the sacred book of the Maya Civilization, tells that two twin brothers (Hunahpú and Xbalanqué) had to face the gods of the underworld (Xibalba) to avenge their father and uncle, whom the terrible deities had killed. They descended to the depths of the earth and there they settled their destiny in a singular
El Pok ta Pok devino motivo de culto para los mayas
battle. Although their lives depended on it, the combat would not be waged with traditional weapons, but through a ball game in which the opponents had to hit a sphere with hips and arms until they could score it through a ring embedded at a certain height in a wall.
The millenary legend tells that the brothers won, but still they were sacrificed to become the Sun and the Moon.
The Pok ta Pok, as this game is named in Mayan language - in reference to the sound of the ball bouncing against the floor and walls - became a cause for worship for this Mexican-american civilization that made it a parable of the myth of the creation, of the confrontation between the opposing forces of good and evil in the universe, and on which it stamped all the cosmological sense that always characterized it.
Its practice has been associated with corn harvesting and conflict resolution without resorting to violence. Each Mayan city discovered today has one or more ball fields.
Over three thousand years later, the Republic of Guatemala, considered the heart of the Mayan world for mysticism and the unique traditions that its people keep of their ancestors, and for having in their territory the most impressive ruins of this pre-columbian civilization, strives in keeping alive the practice of what is listed as the oldest team game in the world.
The Ministry of Culture and Sports of Guatemala, together with its diplomatic headquarters in Cuba, has been the promoter to bring about the presentation for the first time in the Greater Antilles of this ancient sport, declared by UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Nation.
In honor of the celebrations for the half millennium of the town of San Cristóbal de La Habana, the headquarters of the Danza Teatro Obstáculo group, in the Old
District of the city, hosted this exchange of cultures, which was attended by Mr. Jairo David Estrada Barrios, Vice Chancellor of Guatemala and his Cuban counterpart, Rogelio Sierra Díaz.
The Havana public had a unique opportunity to enjoy the ritual ceremony and competition, staged by four players, characterized by typical attire and makeup, in which although they no longer asked for their lives to be spared or for a thriving crop of corn, they did pray in tongue Maya for a game without accidents and in harmony.
Cuba is the ninth country in the world that enjoys the exclusive privilege of witnessing the ancient and complex Pok ta Pok, a mixture of modern basketball and soccer, represented by the descendants of one of the most attractive and mysterious cultures in the world.
Poktapok was worshipped by the Mayans