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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