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Ancient sport of Ulama being revived in Chicano Park

Posted at 11:22 PM, Sep 18, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — History shows the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations created what is now considered the oldest ongoing sport in the world.

It also happens to be a sport you may come across while paying a visit to Chicano Park. The game is called Ulama, and it involves two teams and a rubber bouncing ball.

"Ulama is a sport that was developed in Mesoamerican culture," says Eduardo Santiago who is the President of the local Ulama team the Fire Coyotes.

The game of Ulama has been played locally for about four years. Santiago says the sport itself dates back 3,500 years.

"It was highly prevalent thousands of years ago, and there has been over two thousand courts that have been unearthed from Honduras all the way to Arizona."

The ancestral version of Ulama was about getting a ball through a hoop. Very similar to the game of basketball. Santiago says the game of Ulama they play in Chicano Park is more of a contemporary version of the ancient sport.

"It's more like a game of invasion where you try and push the ball towards the other team's territory as much as possible."

The sport of Ulama goes back 3,500 years, but for the current players, they say the game has put them in touch with their indigenous roots.

"I have to remember that I have my culture," says Santiago. "Everything my identity comes with and it's history that was unfortunately taken from us. What we are doing now is fighting to keep that identity, to keep it alive, and to keep it going. To see the beauty within ourselves and within our culture and within our people."

Santiago says playing the sport of Ulama is about having fun, and it's not really about winning and losing.

"It's about letting our ancestors speak to the world through us."