Ballin’ in Oaxaca

So I just got back from a trip to Oaxaca and I must say that I am always amazed and impressed by the abundance and myriad of cultures that exist in Mexico. Instead of diving into some complex cultural phenomenon in this blog post, I’m gonna keep it simple and focus on what surprised me the most about the places I visited in Oaxaca.

Firstly, it is a known fact that Oaxacans are shorter than the larger Mexican (mestizo) population. In fact, I have never met a Oaxacan that was taller than me. That is not to say that there aren’t any, I just haven’t met one that is. I met several Oaxacan individuals in the US who were almost taller than me, but I am convinced that their above-average height is attributed more to the hormones in the food they consistently eat or they just might be the Yao Mings of Oaxaca. But no, this is not what surprised me the most about Oaxaca…keep reading 🙂

Secondly, soccer is big part of the Mexican identity and it’s not just during World Cup time either. As a side note,  I always wonder if soccer would be as popular as it is today if it required anything more than one ball. Shin guards and shoes are pretty much optional unless you play in a league. And that’s exactly my point; playing in a league requires gear and gear can be expensive. That’s the reason I didn’t play baseball in high school. The list of things to buy just to be ready for a game was like three years of Christmas presents put together. Anyhow, that is why boxing is popular here as well; you only need gloves. The training equipment can be made up of random house items and any street or alley can serve as a perfectly good fighting ring.

But back to Oaxacans. Given their height and location in Mexico, one would assume soccer would be the popular sport. To my surprise, the towns and villages I visited favored basketball over soccer. I saw very few soccer fields and many basketball courts. Basketballs in the hands of kids instead of soccer balls. In the village of San Jose Zaragoza, for example, local teams meet up every day for friendly exhibition games. Hosting a league game is a big deal and attracts a big crowd as they compete against local villages from the area. As a basketball fan, I instantly felt a strong desire to relocate. I would be a force to reckon with given my height advantage. Size in this case did not matter. They certainly played better than many of the teams here in Manzanillo where the players are much taller.

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