The ball games of Mesoamerica were an essential part of both daily and ritual life. These games represent the creation of the world for the Mayans, the cycles of the sun for the Aztec, and various other elements like life and motion. We can see depictions of the game in ceramics, figurines, and the relics of the ball courts themselves; this despite the fact that there are few actual rubber balls. The ball game was also used to promote sacrifice and tribute across the continent, though some of the uses were grounded in the mundane. The ball game was a place for amateur competition and friendly contest.
This practice continues today. Since the Late Postclassic, a secular type of ball game distinguished itself from the traditional ritual ball game, though the original continued. This second game is recreational in nature. The modern recreational ball game can be divided into three versions that are regionally separated: Ulama de Brazo, Ulama de Cadera, and Ulama de Palo.
Ulama de Brazo is played in northern Sinaloa. Two teams of three facing each other. Instead of their hips, the players hit the ball with their forearms, which are protected by padding. It is illegal for the players to contact the ball with any other part of their body. They also protect their knees with pads.
Ulama de Cadera is found in the south of Sinaloa. Teams tend to be made of five or more. Players wear hip protection and a leather belt high on their thighs. In this case, the traditional hip is used to move the ball.
Finally, Ulama de Palo is different in that the players wield a “palo” or wooden racket. Team sizes are more similar to Ulama de Brazo. This certain game was a relic of the past until it was revived in the 1980’s.