Players in Mexico City are keeping an ancient Indigenous sport alive.
The game is known as “ulama” or “pelota.” It was believed to have been played across Mesoamerica by the Aztecs, Maya, and other civilizations. A group of enthusiasts in Mexico City gather every evening to carry on the legacy of the sport, but also to connect spiritually by playing it as their ancestors did.
“Spiritually, I feel it as a balance between good and evil,” player Gerardo Ordaz explained. “Passing the ball is like the balance between good and evil. Balance and harmony comes from passing in the game of pelota.”
The rules are a little complicated, but the basic premise is to get the opposing team to miss the ball during a volley. The game also has an elaborate scoring system, with some scholars saying games could last days. Players can only hit the ball with their hips, and many say the nine-lb rubber ball can start to hurt.
Modern-day players in Mexico City also carry out different rituals and ceremonies prior to matches. Since its origin, the sport has been religious in nature, and some ulama courts can still be seen among ancient ruins.
“The important thing is to try again, use your willpower, and give it everything, and share,” player Jennefer Clavellinas said.