Zen Recreations

The game was invented sometime in 1400 BC in the Preclassical Period.Eearthen courts found at Passo de la Amanda in the Soconusco region on the Pacific side of the costal plains of chepas, probably by the Olmec, became an ubiquitious Mesoamerican-wide feature of the urban landscape by AD 400-700.

Thirteen hundred more ball courts of the same shape but of various sizes were found scattered throughout Mesoamerica. They all had one common theme, two sloping walls for the ball to bounce on, a long narrow playing field and two end zones shaped like an I. Guatemala, home of the earliest Mayan cities, holds over 500 ball courts alone.

Before their arrival in the New World in 1492, the Spanish conquistadors had never before seen games played with balls of rubber, a substance unknown in Europe. Upon their arrival in central Mexico, they were so enamored with the Aztec ballgame that they sent a team of indigenous players to Spain to play before the court of Charles V.

 Soon after the Spanish conquest and the onslaught of European contact and its waves of cultural destruction, what little we know comes from what early chroniclers happened to write down. literate members of the highland Maya nobility made a number of transcripts of their Precolumbian books utilizing a modified Latin script in an effort to preserve what they could of their recorded history and culture before they could be destroyed or lost. The most important example of such a transcription is the Popol Vuh, written sometime between 1554 and 1558. You can read the  285 page document composed by annonymous members of of the Quiché-Maya aristocracy in Guatemala soon after the fall of their capital city to the Spanish conquerors here.

The town of Chichicastenago held a secret for more than a century in Guatemala. The Popol Vuh was hidden for more than 150 years here. In 1701, a Dominican priest named Francisco Ximenez was allowed by the Maya to see something no other European had ever laid eyes on. They showed him a copy of their creation story, known as the Popol Vuh. Ximenez made a Spanish translation of the Popol Vuh so Europeans could read it. Thereafter the original book was lost, but thanks to Father Ximénez’s translation, the beliefs, legends, and customs of this fascinating people of the early Americas have been preserved.  The Popol Vuh is now considered the national book of Guatemala.

 

So where did the balls come from?

A recent research study by Michael Tarkanian, and his co-author, Dorothy Hosler on ancient Mexican rubber when, as a freshman, he wrote a paper on the ritual ball game for a class in Mesoamerican archaeology taught by Professor Hosler.

The two were discussing the ball game one day when they realized that the properties required for the balls could not have resulted from the use of latex alone. Natural latex is a sticky, unworkable liquid that dries to a brittle solid.

So Mr. Tarkanian, with support from MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), worked in the field and the laboratory with Drs. Hosler, Burkett and other members of the materials science and engineering and CMRAE faculties. By using state-of-the-art testing techniques, they discovered that Morning Glory plant juice contains sulfur compounds that are capable of cross-linking the latex polymers and introducing rigid segments into the polymer chains. When these chains interact with and entangle one another, they produce rubbery properties in the couagulated mass.

Morning glory plants tend to grow near rubber trees, and both plants were considered sacred in several Mesoamerican cultures. Morning glory, for example, was also used in religious ceremonies for its hallucinogenic properties.

The ball game which made its first appearance among the Olmec, was the earliest complex civilization which inhabited the Gulf coast of Mexico, extending inland and southward with strong cultural interchanges between the early Olmec and other cultures in Chiapas, Aztec and Maya.

 Mesoamerica, the term literally means ‘middle America’, extends from approximately Central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica.

This is one of only three regions of the world where writing is known to have independently developed (the others being ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia and China).

An area known at the time for latex production, different grades of rubber were made here 3,000 years ago or 1600 BC.Long before Charles Goodyear “stabilized” the stuff in the mid-19th century!

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Christmas is around the corner and that means time to head to Zapote to see the bullfights live.

The mayor of San José, Johnny Araya, confirmed this October, fans will be allowed in the stands to see the bullfights that will be held from December 25 to January with an agreement with the Ministry of Health to allow 30% of the ring’s capacity. That is about 900 people per bullfight  the in person attendees to be fully vaccinated against covid-19, confirmed by the QR code. The same for the 100 authorized “improvisados” (amateur bullfighters), who want to enter the Zapote arena for each function.

In Costa Rica they call it a corrida, which literally means, “run.” what it actually means here is rodeo — and these events largely resemble a typical American rodeo — but some people would call it a bullfight, they wouldn’t be entirely wrong.

It may seem strange that bullfights take place during Christmas time, but the Costa Rican version of this Spanish sport does not include killing the bulls. In Costa Rica, bullfights consist of bull riding, equestrian skills, live music, dancing and fireworks. Called Toros a la Tica, these events are family friendly and take place near San Jose, if you came to Costa Rica to party, Zapote is where the party begins.

Tour the entertainment scene with your party of friends, and discover why the weather isn’t the only reason for Costa Rica’s sizzling heat. Thousands of Ticos visit the traditional Zapote festival on the east side of San José, where bull baiting is one of the most popular events.

But of all the bulls in Costa Rica, the most celebrated and revered is the ‘bull’ people call “Malacrianza.” Translation? “Badass.” On his debut at a corrida, the then-anonymous bull entered the ring on one of the earlier days of the festival, putting on a graceful and belligerent show worthy of an encore later in the week. Soon, Malacrianza’s distinctive style begin to earn him accolades and nicknames, for instance, “El Corazón de Garza” (the Heart of Garza) and “Su Majestad” (His Majesty). The most popular name, though, was as yet unearned: “El Toro Asesino.” The Bull Assassin.

 

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