March 29, 2008

Tainos revive ball game

Batu:  The ancient game lives on

How it was:The game is played in a rectangular playing field called a batey. The batey is surrounded by huge stone slabs with carvings that bear a semblance to those found in other regions of the Americas, yet these are distinctly unique to the Caribbean. Two teams of players enter the batey. The teams have come together from different communities--perhaps to cement their political or social bonds, or just simply for the love of the game.

In any event, these games are central in the Taino social structure. The villagers begin praying and chanting to Koromo, Achinao, Rakuno and Sobaoko, the four directions. The rules of the game have long been established, but the players are reminded once again that one cannot touch the ball with their hands or feet. Only hips, elbows, shoulders and head are allowed. A heavy rubber ball is tossed in the center ... and the game begins.
How it is:In 1969, Aristides Estrada Torres, Danilo Perez, brothers; Ica and Rhadames Perez, and others formed a cultural group called Grupo Marcos. The group was concerned that our Taino cultural heritage was being neglected not just by academics, but by our own people as well. This group dedicated itself to the rescue of all aspects of Taino cultural continuities and the revival of others. In time, its main focus became the resurrection of the batu game.

Grupo Marcos became the inspiration for the creation of three additional groups: Batey Athene, Batey Azua and Batey Cubatay. With new leaders, renewed energy and total dedication, the groups used historical sources to reconstruct the ancient game of batu. Although individual members have different foci, the main objective remains the same--the game's complete revival.

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