Basketball has made life better. For the indigenous people of the Lake Atitlán part of Guatemala, basketball — no, not soccer — has taken over the impoverished town. So much so that as many as 800 people in s a small town gather around to watch a game of b-ball.
“It’s not like futbol,” Otto Gonzalez said as he watched his daughter play a game. “But basketball is important in Guatemala, especially in some of the towns around here.”
It’s important not only because it’s more acceptable for his daughter to play the game — unlike soccer — but because there’s a connection to juego de pelota or ball game, an ancient Mayan game where players used their thighs and shoulders to put a ball through a vertical hoop.
“Running a rubber ball through a hoop — that appeals to them. There’s a skill involved, and practice and team coordination. These are things that expand on the ancient past, so there’s a tremendous legacy there,” says Dr. Richard Hansen, an archaeologist who has studied Mayan culture in Guatemala, to the New York Times.
Since the indigenous people have long been oppressed and enslaved thus losing the chance to embrace and appreciate their traditions, Basketball has allowed them to reconnect with their Mayan culture.
“Basketball is a game where they have an opportunity to appreciate the history they’ve had,” Hansen said. “Their ancestors essentially invented it.”
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Last Friday, Bryant celebrated the 21st anniversary of the day she and Kobe met. She captioned the Instagram post writing “Love at first sight 11/27/99 #21.”
Vanessa and Kobe met in 1999 during a music video shoot while she was still in high school and he was 20 years old. The couple became engaged when she turned 18, announced their engagement at her 18th birthday party, and the Bryants married in April 2001.
In 2013, Kobe shared a picture of the day they met on Instagram.
“On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses) I love you my mamacita per sempre,” Kobe wrote in the Instagram post at the time.
After their 2001 message, Kobe and Vanessa had four daughters together, Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 1. Tragically, in January, Bryant and Gianna passed away in a helicopter crash alongside seven others.
Last year, Kobe also reflected on the day he met his “best friend,” posting a throwback pic along with the Disneyland snap.
“On this day 20 years ago I met my best friend, my Queen @vanessabryant,” he captioned his post at the time. “I decided to take her on a date to Disneyland tonight to celebrate old school style (pre 4princesses) I love you my mamacita per sempre.”
It’s not the first time Vanessa honored her husband since his death. In October, the former model and philanthropist honored her husband and daughter with tattoos.
Speaking about her loss, Vanessa’s friend La La Anthony told Entertainment Today that she’s done her best to stay strong.
“Well, you know, I’m a real friend, that’s what friends do,” Anthony told ET in September. “You know, you don’t dip out on your friends when it gets really hard. And she’s going through something that is unimaginable, that, you know, I can’t even fathom what that feels like. So, just to be a friend and be there to make her laugh when she needs to, cry when she needs to, is a beautiful thing. But that’s what friends do for each other, you know, so I’m always going to be there for her and the girls and just, you know, want to see her just continue to be strong and amazing.”
Like so many other countries across Latin America, Guatemala is just the latest to see a massive outpouring of anger against the ruling party. Over the weekend, massive protests took place in the nation’s capital in response to a proposed budget that would of actually cut much needed funding for the country’s Covid-19 response while increasing funds for government officials.
Protesters were largely peaceful as they chanted and waved the Guatemalan flag in front of the National Congress but as riot police moved in, the situation intensified.
As a result, the controversial budget has been withdrawn from consideration and the country’s Vice President has suggested that he and the president both resign for the benefit of Guatemala.
Protesters took to the streets demanding a proposed budget be withdrawn.
Over the weekend, protesters marched in Guatemala’s capital to demand the resignation of President Alejandro Giammattei, who played a key role in passing the controversial 2021 national budget.
Although the march started out peacefully, it turned violent as riot police entered the city’s main plaza to disperse more than 10,000 protesters in front of the National Palace. Protesters set fire to part of Congress, although the extent of the damage isn’t yet known.
However, police have been accused of using excessive force as videos show flames coming out of a window in the legislative building. Police fired teargas at protesters, and about a dozen people were reported injured.
Discontent had been building on social media even before the controversial budget was passed in secret last week. Protesters were also upset by recent moves by the supreme court and attorney general they saw as attempts to undermine the fight against corruption.
Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to resign, telling Giammattei that both men should step down “for the good of the country.” He also suggested vetoing the approved budget, firing government officials and reaching out more to various sectors around the country.
The nation’s Congress was set on fire by protesters and police used excessive force.
As protesters were confronted by police, some set fire to the Congress. Although the amount of damage to the building remains unclear, the flames appear to have affected legislative offices, rather than the main hall of the monumental building.
President Giammattei condemned the fires using his Twitter account on Saturday.
“Anyone who is proven to have participated in the criminal acts will be punished with the full force of the law,” he said. He added that he defended people’s right to protest, “but neither can we allow people to vandalize public or private property.”
Police resorted to excessive force against protesters and targeted them with tear gas and batons, attacking not only the 1,000 demonstrators at congress but also a much larger, peaceful protest outside of the National Palace.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has condemned what it called an “excessive use of force” by police in Guatemala against demonstrators
The IACHR wrote on Twitter on Sunday that it “condemns the excessive use of force by authorities against demonstrators” but also asked for an investigation into “the acts of vandalism against Congress, after which State agents indiscriminately suppressed the protest.”
The proposed budget did little to help those struggling amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
The weekend’s protests were part of a growing movement against President Gaimmattei and the legislature for approving a budget largely in secret. The budget, which was approved last week, actually cut much needed funding for education and health while increasing by $65,000 the funding for meals for lawmakers. It also cut funding for Coronavirus patients and human rights agencies.
“We are outraged by poverty, injustice, the way they have stolen the public’s money,” said psychology professor Rosa de Chavarría in a statement to Al Jazeera.