In Mexico, Traditional games and sports play an essential role in the cultural identity of those who practice them, both, as a community and as a individual. TSG bond with cultures and societies in multiple ways: sometimes as a socializing tradition and some times they are bond to religious rituals, in some cases they can be influenced by festivity calendar, productive activities, weather and seasons, ecosystems and the availability of local materials, they also can serve as a teaching method through oral tradition or simply as a recreational practice.
In Mexican traditional games and sports universe, activities that have a link or have pre-hispanic reminiscences and are still practiced by communities are particularly important, their millenary heritage strengthens Mexico’s sport and cultural legacy.
Mexico has a registry of over 200 different activities related with sport and ludic practices, with such diversity along our geographic territory we have classified them into categories for their better understanding, three main categories: Games, sports and mental skill games, and some subcategories which we consider particularly important: Ball games, season games, ritual practices and productive and related to hunting activities.
Game and “ludic sense” are considered a constant in every human cultural process.
“game” is a free and voluntary activity, and can have some different characteristics: competition, physical skill, luck, imitation or strategy; however, some games don’t necessary have fixed rules, they sometimes involve free improvisation.
Games that are native to a specific place and that have cultural identity traces are called autochthonous and they can be linked to weather and seasons, availability of local materials or traditional rituals in specific communities, in this sense, traditional games fulfill different functions and are represented in every day life.
Mental Skill Games
Mental skill games are a cohesive element in mesoamerican civilizations, they managed to build, structure and establish themselves in every corner of the country, with different names, altered rules but with similar meanings.
As an example the P´urhépecha game Kúillichi Chanakua, from the state of Michoacan in western Mexico, requires several ethno-math and astronomical vision processes to understand its meaning. Hidden math and oral tradition of our ancient civilizations building its legacy through mental skill games.
FMJDAT currently has registered 10 important mental skill games.
Traditional ludic activities are considered sports when they meet four basic characteristics: motor activity (physical and/or intellectual), regulations, competition and institutionalization (social acknowledgement). With these criteria Ulama, Mixteca Ball and Púrhépecha Ball are without a doubt the most important in Mexico.
In our country, traditional sports are also referred as games, this is due to its nature, these disciplines take place in different cultural contexts where not only the competition system is important, they comply with recreative, community and social functions and a huge identity charge for those athletes who practice them.
In Mexico, ball games tell us a 3500 years old history. With pre-hispanic elements, they are mainly practiced in the land they originated in, and have managed to survive in the context of tradition strength, transmitting from generation to generation, maintaining specific features, and in their development have kept part of the sacred, ritual, political and recreative character.
Season games are strictly bond to nature related factors: agricultural cycles, season and weather conditions, religious rituals and the availability of local materials.
Hunting or war related
Some traditional sports are linked with the development of ancient technologies, tools, implements, and techniques, and were at first created to hunting or war related activities and later developed into a sport activity.
There is evidence that the tool known as Atlatl was used back as far as paleolithic age.
Some practices that could be described for their characteristics as sports or games, are not necessarily considered that way by the people who practice them. Their spiritual value, importance and meaning reflects the cosmic vision and ideology of its culture, and are considered exclusively ancient ritual practices.