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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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The sacred sport of Pok-ta-Pok was a significant aspect of ancient Maya civilization. The game requires players to use hip, arm and leg movements to move the ball around the court. The remains of these ball courts can be seen at several of Belize's archaeological sites, including Lamanai, Nim Li Punit, and Cahal Pech. Over the past several years, the ancient sport has seen a revival in neighboring Central American countries and Belize. Countries compete in a biennial world tournament for the chance to be recognized as the best in the region. Belize proudly holds the world championship title and has garnered three consecutive wins. Belize will also host the semi-final and championship games for the first time in December of this year.

The Ts'unu'un Pok-ta-Pok Ball Court, the first of its kind in Belize, therefore pays tribute to our nation's ancient Maya heritage. The construction of the ball court was a collaborative initiative between the BTB and the Belize Maya Ancestral Maya Sport Pok-ta-Pok (BMAMSP). It is a public-private partnership and has a combined investment of $75,000. The ball court was meticulously constructed and boasts an awe-inspiring 100ft by 50ft structure.

The inclusion of this new site in Belize's northern region expands the range of destinations for both Belizean and International visitors to explore. It serves as a focal point for experiencing the Maya Pok-ta-Pok game, offering a designated location where continuous demonstrations of this culturally significant performance can be witnessed by tourists exploring the Holpatin Corridor. In addition to promoting and preserving the cultural and sporting heritage of the surrounding communities, it also serves as an incubator for regular practice sessions and the hosting of games. Mr. Evan Tillett, Director of Tourism shared, "Promoting and preserving historic sites and new products such as the Pok-ta-Pok ball court, through tourism, not only allows us to connect with our past but it also generates revenue to support conservation for future generations."

The guest speaker at the inaugural ceremony was Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister & Minister of Finance, Economic Development & Investment. Other speakers included, Hon. Dolores Balderamos, Minister of Human Development, Families & Indigenous People's Affairs, Hon. Jose Abelardo Mai, Minister of Agriculture Food Security & Enterprise, Mr. Evan Tillett, Director of Tourism, Mr. Jose Manrique Esquivel, President of ACCDAPM, Mr. Josue Carballo, Director of Industry Development, BTB and Mrs. Felicita Cantun, President of BMAMSP.
Also, in attendance were various Pok-ta-Pok teams, cultural stakeholders, and community members. The media and attendees were treated to an exciting demonstration of the game by various teams on the new ball court and delectable traditional cuisine.

The Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations, and by extension, the BTB, is dedicated to safeguarding and promoting Belize's cultural heritage. The establishment of this Maya Pok-ta-Pok Ball court not only adds an exciting cultural attraction to Belize's tourism landscape but also contributes to the growth and development of the tourism industry.

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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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The Most Modern Pok-Ta-Pok Court In Mesoamerica is In Belize

San Lazaro Village's cultural centre, Jardin Pachaman, can now boast its own Pok-Ta-Pok court. It's a contemporary replica of a traditional Mayan playing ground called the Ts'unu'un or hummingbird Pok-Ta-Pok court.

It was inaugurated this morning with great fanfare, the Prime Minister in attendance, and an authentic demonstration of how the game is played.

We made the trip up to Orange Walk to experience the spectacle and here's what we learned about the game from the cultural leader who's been its Belizean champion. Here's that story:

Orange Walk's Jardin Pachama can now proudly boast the only contemporarily built Pok Ta Pok court in Mesoamerica. The court, and indeed the culture behind the sport in Belize owes a great deal of thanks to cultural guardian Felicita Cantun.

Felicita Cantun, President, Belize Association Of Ancestral Sports Pok Ta Pok
"Today you are going to witness just a demonstration of the Pok Ta Pok, Pok Ta Pok, was a game played by my ancestors the Mayas more than 500 years ago, this went dormant because it was prohibited. My ancestors played this game to settle disputes, so instead of going to war they played a game."

Still Cantun says the road back to the sport and a court built in the ancient traditions wasn't easy.

Felicita Cantun, President, Belize Association Of Ancestral Sports Pok Ta Pok
"At the beginning people used to say La — established loca but no this, this is a vision that I had from long long ago and this vision came to pass in 2015, when I was approached by the president of an international association, asking me if I would want to be involved and I said of course, so um when I told my family they said this cannot happen, you cannot have people playing this game dressed just like…and I said yes it will happen."

And today she got maximum recognition for those efforts by the Prime Minister himself.

John Briceno, Prime Minister
"I think we need to congratulate Miss Fel Cantun and her family for what they have done in trying to promote the Maya language, as I mentioned earlier as a kid growing up a lot of times we used to be kind of ashamed to accept that we are of Mayan descent, my grandfather only spoke in Maya so I didn't really understand I knew a word or two but that is about it and so what Miss Feel Cantun and her family are doing I think is something commendable. To revive the Maya culture, the Maya language and even the Pok Ta Pok."

Felicita Cantun, President, Belize Association Of Ancestral Sports Pok Ta Pok
"Today you are going to witness, just a demonstration, not a real, real game, so this is a game, we say between the good and the bad, between the light and darkness, this was first played by. the hero twins from the Popol Vuh with the lords of Xibalba, so it's just two, two players that played but now we have different rules so you can play three, three depending on the size of the court, this court is 100 feet by 30 feet so it is a big court and well, as I said just a demonstration you will see, we have the kids playing, we have the females playing and we have the big boys."

And this fully realised project was supported by community businesses and the BTB.

For the director of Industry development, it's not just cultural preservation. It's also a possible tourism product and experience that can give the curious tourist a glimpse into the past.

Josue Carballo, Director Of Industry Development, BTB
"It is all in collaboration with the intention to grow this area in tourism in the aspect of what is termed as the hot pa tin trail, the hot pa tin corridor that is from Orange Walk town leading by road up to Lamani, no, what better way to start that off but by commemorating in a very significant and physical way, our champions, no? We know that Belize, in one of the events that we have become world champions is Pok-ta-Pok, so the idea of this court is for it to be used for local, for regional, and hopefully, for international competitions as well."

And indeed this court in the village that Felicita Cantun has called La Cuna de Pok Ta Pok will host Pok-Ta-Poks regional semifinals in which the Yo Creek team, already three time champs are expected to dominate yet again.

Belize won its third pok-ta-Pok championship in December of last year in Merida, Mexico.

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