Reenactments of the Mayan Pok Ta Pok ceremony returned Wednesday to Mérida’s Plaza Grande.
The ancient ceremony, also known as the Mayan or Mesoamerican ball game, is performed weekly in front of Mérida’s Cathedral, after being suspended for over a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The show is held Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Entrance is free but assigned seating is limited.
During the “game” players struck the ball with their hips through an elevated stone hoop. However, some versions allowed the use of forearms, rackets, or bats. The ball was made of solid rubber and weighed as much as 4 kilograms or 9 pounds.
The ceremony is widely believed to be metaphorical for the constant battle between the forces of good and evil — life and death.
From time to time ritual sacrifice was a component of the ceremony, with war captives being the most common victims. But you won’t see any of that in Mérida.
Mesoamerican ball courts have been found as far north as Arizona and as far south as Nicaragua.
These ball courts vary greatly in size, with the largest by far found at the world-famous archaeological site of Chichén Itzá.
Over the past few decades, the Pok Ta Pok has become a popular tourist spectacle, but the ceremony is still practiced by a handful of communities in Mexico, including the Ulama of Sinaloa.
In Yucatán, there have been a handful of attempts to revitalize the ancient ceremony by holding tournaments with teams from multiple communities.