p’urhépecha Playing with fire.

Traditional sports will be exhibited at games festival in Italy

Ancient sports are being kept alive in Mexico, which is probably one of the main reasons why it has been invited to the International Festival of Traditional Games, to be held in Italy in September.

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Keeping those sports alive is the mandate of the Federation of Native and Indigenous Games and Sports, legally incorporated in 1988 to save, preserve and develop the country’s historical games and sports.

Most of the sports are ball games, such as pelota mixteca, which is still played in Oaxaca and Guerrero. The rubber ball is struck by players wearing large gloves that are often studded with nails, although there are variations.

Some say the game is a descendant of the Mesoamerican ballgame, believed to be more than 3,000 years old.

There were many varieties of ball games in prehispanic Mexico, but possibly the most unusual was p’urhépecha. The game entails striking a ball with a club, but in this case the ball is on fire.

Described by writer Sergio Solache as “a sort of field hockey for pyromaniacs,” p’urhépecha was recognized as one of 150 or so prehispanic games threatened with extinction. Initiatives have followed to encourage them to be played and to preserve the history.

Most of the traditional sports are ball games which had strong religious importance.

The federation is associated with 23 state associations, and together they work to preserve more than 180 different games and sports.

Mexico’s contingent at the festival in Italy will consist of about 100 participants, who will demonstrate the sports that best represent the country.

Federation president Gregorio Ramos Melo said the event, held in Verona, consists of games played in the streets and represent an entertaining spectacle for visitors.

Source: Diario Rotativo (esp)

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