Cuzco’s Traditional Game Called “Matachola”

Playing Matachola (Photo: Wayra)

Although computer games pull Cuzco’s youth from the streets, still there are games that draw them back into the outdoors. One of its traditional games is found wherever there are youth and it simple to put together. It requires a sock filled with rags and sand. You hang it from a post of pole for electricity and struggle back and forth to try to be the one to wrap it all the way around the pole.

While in English this game is called tether ball, because it involves a ball tethered to the post, in Cuzco’s Spanish its name is matachola, or “kill the chola”. The word chola is used for a woman who dresses in broad skirts (a pollera) and often wears a hat. The grandmothers of most of the children wore chola dress yet now a days the word refers mostly to women from rural or small town Cuzco.

It is played by just two people, one facing the other. Just like in basketball, a referee or some else should start the ball into play by tossing it. Everyone else who wants to play has to wait their turn. Generally, you only leave the play when you lose.

Nevertheless, those waiting also get involved by shouting out instructions and groaning at misses.

To play, you hit the “chola”, the ball, with the palms of your hands. Each player tries to keep the ball going in the direction that favors them. With jumps and al kinds of facial expressions they try to wrap the cord completely around the post while keeping their competitor from doing so.

Everyone plays. This is not a game that separates kids by class or race. All you have to do is know the simple rules and be willing to jump, hit, and compete.

It is fascinating how this game draws so many participants. All you have to do is put you “chola”, your ball, up on a post, and willing players seem to appear out of no where. It is a game for sharing, and for meeting other people while enjoying it together.

Neither the time not tiredness seems to impede those who want to play. They get lost in the game and its emotions.

I remember how my brothers and sister, as well as my cousins, would play the game on a post in front of my aunts house. I would always lose, no matter how I tried, because I was so much smaller than them. With time and practice I learned how to play better and I began to win.

Although with advances in technology, this simple game will probably get lost just like all the others, being replaced by computers, internet games, and more, still it draws people to play. They jump and laugh while trying to knock the ball around the post.

If you remember playing this game, you should get out your “chola”, your ball–rustic though it may be–and attach it to a post. You will see how others will come to compete and how much fun you can have by playing this traditional game.
Translators Note: It intrigues me that this game is called Matachola. It seems to enshrine a violence against working class, or indigenous women in its name. I suspect that it would be interesting to locate this in terms of the whole range of sues of the word chola in Cuzco.

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