The Ts’unu’un Pok-ta-Pok Ball Court, located at Jardín Pachamama on the Yo Creek – San Lazaro Road in the Orange Walk District, was officially inaugurated as part of the Belize Tourism Board’s (BTB) steadfast efforts to safeguard Maya heritage and promote tourism in northern Belize.
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.
Article and photos provided by the Belize Tourism Board