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11 Unusual Sports You Can Find In Latin America

Sports, just like music or cuisine, define groups of people and their culture. While the appeal of certain sports stretch to the farthest parts of the world, there are some that are unique to one area. Today we focus on the sports that may seem unusual to all but those living in Latin American countries.

Tejo

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Tejo is a sport that originated in Colombia and is still one of the most popular in the country today. Some have compared it to a loud, raucous version of bowling. While the origins of the game are unclear, what is certain is that the game continues to be a popular pub sport, played among friends, similar to the way a game of darts may be enjoyed in Europe.

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Just how is tejo played? The tejo is, in fact, a steel disk. The participants throw the disk towards a metal ring, known as a bocin, that is rigged with explosives. Upon impact the explosives go off with a thundering noise. The objective of the game is to hit certain points inside the metal ring and to earn points.

Jai-alai

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Jai-alai is a sport that most likely originated in the 19th Century, but enjoyed tremendous popularity in the 20th Century. At one time, Jai-alai was firmly rooted in the popular culture of Miami.  The game is played by either eight teams of two players each or eight single players.

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Some have called Jai-alai the world’s fastest sport. The players have to hit the pilota (the ball) with the xistera, an object that looks like a scooped tennis racket, against the surface of the walls. A team earns a point when the opposition is unable to catch the ball, and it lands outside of the playing surface. At one point the game’s popularity could attract audiences of well over 10.000 people. While some of its fame has faded, Jai-alai leagues continue to exist and the sport’s fateful work to increase its profile. 

Basque Pelota

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In many ways Basque Pelota is the grandfather sport of the Jai-Alai. However, there are elements that make it distinctly different. Traditionally, a game of pelota is played only between two opposing teams. It’s a very versatile game, that unlike Jai-Alai can be played without special rackets. 

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The players battle by hitting the pilota or pelota vasca (Spanish) against a wall and attempting to score points by making the ball land outside of the playing area. The game, with its different versions, is very popular in countries such as Spain, Uruguay or Argentina. While official leagues do exist, the game is often played unofficially, in the neighborhoods of Latin countries, in the same way that soccer is played by kids all over the world.

Haka Pei

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Haka Pei is a sport still practiced in Chile, firmly rooted in tradition, which at one point is believed to have served as training for young warriors. The sport, which may look dangerous to newcomer spectators, involves the participant sliding down a hill at top speed, riding a banana-tree trunk. 

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While the rider is doing his best to steer the difficult terrain, the sounds of drums and chanting can be heard from the onlookers attempting to encourage the participants.  Haka Pei is a rite of passage for many, serving an important role in the community. 

Capoeira

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Capoeira is a sport that has earned fame across the world through its depiction in movies and mainstream media. The sport is a mixture of dance moves and martial arts. 

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Legend has it that the capoeira originated as a consequence of the fact that the African slaves arriving in Brazil were banned from practicing their fighting techniques. They were forced to disguise it, so that it would resemble a dance. Two participate in Capoeira, executing their moves, while, traditionally, music is played from  the sidelines.

Read: 12 Reasons The Brazil Carnival Should Be On Your Bucket List

Rana

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The frog game or rana is a beloved game in countries such as Spain and Colombia. The game is played by tossing a metal ring through the holes of a wooden box. The box resembles an old arcade machine. Each of the holes represents a different number of points. The further participants move away from the box, the harder it is to hit the target.

Read: 20 Facts To Know About Colombia Before You Make That Big Trip

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The sport is also known as toad in a hole, with the box usually featuring tiny frog statues standing with their mouths open, awaiting the toss. Numerous versions of the game exist across Latin America, and it remains a popular pub game. 

Peteca

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Peteca is game that is believed to have been created by the indigenous people of Brazil before the arrival of the Portuguese. It is played using a rubber base decorated with feathers. It closely resembles badminton, however it is not played using a racket.

Read: 10 Folk Religions You Didn’t Know Existed In Latin America And The Caribbean

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Peteca (which means swing) became especially popular through the promotion offered by Brazilian athletes enjoying the game in their spare time. Peteca is now played in countries such Brazil and Japan, where even federations have been set up.

Pato

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Pato or Jugeo del pato is one of the most popular sports in Argentina. It is played on horseback, not dissimilar to polo. The two participating teams consist of four members. The object of the game is to score by throwing the ball (the pato) through a ring. The player that is controlling the ball must ride with his arm stretched out so as to give the opposition players the opportunity of gaining back possession of the ball.

Read: Facts You Should Know About These 13 Legendary Soccer Players from Latin America

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The game is believed to have originated in the 17th Century. One legend has it that the name derives from the fact that players would use a basket that held a duck (translated as pato) instead of a ball. 

Frescobol

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Frescobol is a sport that was created on the South American beaches and has enjoyed a good deal of popularity, especially, in Brazil. The game resembles tennis, being played with a large wooden racket. 

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While there are similarities to tennis, there are no boundaries to the court and there is no net. A player earns a point when their opposition is unable to deliver the ball back to them. Frescobol can still be seen on the beaches of Brazil, a country that enjoys the game so much it even started organizing tournaments as far back as 1994.

Button Football

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Button Football is a table top game that, while somewhat known in Europe and Asia, is especially popular in Brazil, a country that has a Federation set up to govern the sport. The way in which is played is supposed to mimic the way that two football teams are set up. 

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Each teams gets 11 buttons (players), with the goaltender usually represented by a larger piece. The buttons are maneuvered on the flat surface so as to hit a small ball towards the goal of the opposing team. The team that scores the most goals, wins.

Bossaball 

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A modern game that originated in Spain, bossaball is a combination of football, volleyball and gymnastics. The game is played on an inflatable trampoline, with two teams being separated by a net. Much like volleyball, the participants win points by hitting the ball towards the other side’s half. The game, inspired by Brazilian culture, is usually accompanied by bossanova music (hence the name).

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Sports are part of our culture and heritage. Culture defines as as people.Sports represent a peaceful way in which people are able to gather, compete against each other and offer support to one another. 

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