National Geographic : 1990 Mar
For the first time since pre-Columbian days the ball court atXochicalco comes alive on the spring equinox as teams from Sinaloa play a game once common throughout Mesoamerica. In this ver sion of the ceremonial contest-one of 15 local variations to survive Spanish repression players may hit the hard rubber ball only with their hips as they attempt to keep it in play. For pro tection they wear cotton padding under a tradi tional deerskin loincloth. Accustomed to playing on a flat, unfenced court, the Sinaloa teams discov ered that the sloping sides of this ancient court made it easier to keep the ball in bounds. Remarked one: "Now we know how our ancestors played." The survival of such games rests in part on the enjoy ment the players and audience derive from bet ting on the outcome. In antiquity players personified celestial beings, such as the power ful Tezcatlipoca, or Smoking Mirror, shown in east (red) and west (black) manifestations in the Borgia Codex (far left), an almanac from the central Mexican high lands. A striped sacrifi cial victim reveals the probable fate of defeated players.