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  • A player takes part in the First Festival of the Mayan Ballgame in Guazapa, August 26

    A player takes part in the First Festival of the Mayan Ballgame in Guazapa, August 26 | Photo: EFE

"Pelota Maya" had a religious significance for the Indigenous cultures of Mesoamerica before the Spanish conquest.

An ancient Mayan ballgame has been brought back to life at the First Festival of Pelota Maya in El Salvador. It's believed the game dates back to some two thousand years before the Spanish conquest, but it has rarely been played since.

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The festival was organized in the northern community of Guazapa, with the aim of "recovering this activity, which is thousands of years old, but which has been forgotten for so long," one of the players, Danilo Dominguez, told reporters.

First Festival of Pelota Maya in El Salvador | EFE

Dominguez is part of a group of 100 teachers who traveled to Guatemala to be trained in the sport. He says the game had both a sporting and a religious significance for the ancient Maya peoples.

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Before the game began, the participants offered thanks to the four points of the compass for supplying air, fire and water.

The teams then competed by trying to push the ball through a hole in the stone, using only their arms, elbows and hips, but not their hands.

First Festival of Pelota Maya in El Salvador | EFE

Dominguez' team, the Jaguars of Cihuatan, expect to return to Guatemala in September to take part in the game's second world cup, alongside teams from Belize and Mexico.

Archaelogical remains of ball courts show that the pelota Maya was played across a wide area of Mesoamerica by peoples of the Maya tradition, in what is now Mexico and most of Central America.

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