Barefoot Triqui basketball players after winning a tournament. Barefoot Triqui basketball players after winning a tournament.

Private school steps in to aid Triqui students

The famous basketball team and other children find a new school in Oaxaca

Thirty-two children belonging to the Triqui indigenous people, including the internationally renowned basketball team, have been taken in by a private school in the Oaxaca resort town of Huatulco after official support for their education all but vanished.

The Triqui students were promised an indoor basketball court by the federal government two years ago. It was to be built in their native community of Santiago Juxtlahuaca in the Mixtec region of the state. But the 15-million-peso (US $1.15 million) project has reportedly been abandoned.

Relocated to the Oaxaca Central Valleys town of Santa María El Tule, the Triqui children were provided with a gymnasium and indoor basketball court, located in the town’s Vicente Guerrero primary school, by the state government and the National Sports Commission (Conade).

But on July 15, the children’s coach found that access to the school and basketball courts had been locked. On further inquiry it was found that the school’s parents’ committee and its principal, along with municipal authorities, were demanding that the Triqui people intercede with the state government for more social infrastructure projects for Santa María El Tule.

The school also decided that the enrollment fee for the Triqui children would be 600 pesos, while other children were being charged only half that.

Now, however, the Triqui have a new school. The Instituto México de Huatulco (IMH), a private school for students from preschool to secondary levels, stepped in to offer a full scholarship to 32 Triqui children, all members of the Indigenous Basketball Academy of Mexico (ABIM).

The IMH, which has an enrollment of 230 students, offers a bilingual education based on a system developed in the United States, and has traditionally been the preferred school for children of local business people.

The 10 Triqui children who are members of the star basketball team often have to travel abroad, but the school offers them the opportunity to carry on with their education via online courses.

After the school day is over, the Triqui children spend another two hours training.

The Triqui children are having to work to overcome cultural differences. For many, Spanish is their second language. Third-grade student Isabella Martínez says in broken Spanish that she wants to be famous, like her basketball-playing older brother Bernabé, a member of the Triqui team, but her dream is to be a lawyer.

The school’s principal, Tere Zimbrón, acknowledged that everyone, students and teachers, “are going through a process. These are two cultures, two different ways of life, and we must all be sensitive if we’re to overcome our differences, all with the hope of giving [the Triqui children] a better future.”

The Triqui basketball team found international fame in 2013 when they won a tournament in Argentina which they played barefoot, earning themselves the name, “barefoot giants from the mountains.” They won the Barcelona Cup in Spain in July, this time wearing shoes which have been provided by federal authorities.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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