What is Pokatok?

by Daniel Cubias

Like you, I receive a lot of strange requests via email. Thus far, I have resisted invitations from strangers to take part in their pyramid schemes or to meet them for illicit affairs or to order pharmaceuticals by the truckload.

But I recently got a missive that captured my attention. I have been asked to join a pokatok league.

A natural question, of course, is what the hell is pokatok? Well, I didn’t know either.

Then I found out that this ancient Mesoamerican ballgame, arguably the world’s first ball sport, was played throughout Latin America in the days before Columbus showed up to ask, “Which way to India?”

Although everyone from the Mayans to remote rain-forest tribes apparently played a version of the game, it was the Aztecs who really made it a spectacle.

Their version, called ullamaliztli, had religious, political, and social connotations. This was not a mere game.

Supposedly, the losing team had their heads chopped off. However, “some historians have disputed this, because it was an honor to be sacrificed” so “it may have been the winning team that lost their lives.”

That puts the whole Super Bowl MVP “I’m going to Disney World” thing in perspective.

Regardless, the pokatok league that’s starting up here in California will not, to my knowledge, feature decapitations. The founders say that it is an attempt to fulfill an “educational and cultural mission by presenting a fuller picture of the achievements of the Mexican and Central American peoples.” The subtext is that anything that gets Americans off the couch and exercising can only be a good thing too.

Still, as flattered as I am to be invited to play pokatok, I’m going to pass. I’ve got this bad knee and… no really, I do.

Well, I can see you doubt my reasons. Fine, maybe we’ll just have to settle this on the tlachtli court. See you there.

To learn more about Daniel Cubias, visit Hispanic Fanatic.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.


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4 Comments to “What is Pokatok?”

  1. Hilarious read! Now I’m gonna go check Google’s (aka the guidebook to life’s) findings on pokatok.

  2. Great post!! Funny and informative at the same tine!

  3. Daniel – Sorry about your knee, I hope it gets well. In the meanwhile check out our Pokatok website and let me know what you think.


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