Sport is an integral part of Mexican culture. Indigenous peoples played traditional sports, such as charrería and bullfighting, for hundreds of years. Recently, team sports such as football and baseball have become the most loved pastimes, and Mexico has a strong history of producing athletic champions to international competitions.
The original Mexican sport is the Mesoamerican ballgame played by Mexicans for over 3,000 years.
The oldest ballcourt ever discovered, dating to around 1400 BC, is at Paso de la Amada in Mexico. The exact rules of the sport are lost, but historians believe that one or two players would play on each side of a stone court. They would use rackets, bats, or even their own bodies to keep a ball, made of solid rubber and weighing over 8 lbs., moving across the court.
At some point, the Maya added an extra challenge by make the aim to pass the ball through stone rings placed high up on a wall at the ends of the court. In the Mexican state of Sinaloa, a version of the game same game is still played, called Ulama.
Depiction of a ballcourt and players
When Spain colonized Mexico around 400 years ago, it brought along the sport of bullfighting. The sport has remained one of the most popular in the country ever since. Mexico City sports the largest bullring in the world, Plaza Mexico.
A modern bullfight typically also includes traditional folk dancing and equestrian events, called charrería (or charreada). Charrería, like a Mexican rodeo, is the national sport of Mexico, and it dates back to the 16th century. It was developed to maintain the traditions of the charro, a traditional Mexican cowboy.
© Ruben Balderas - Charreria
Another colonial import to Mexico is Basque Pelota. This is a broad category of sports played with a ball in a court using hands, rackets, or wooden bats. Jai-Alai, a popular variation of Basque Pelota, is the fastest sport in the world. One Mexican variation is Frontenis, a combination of Basque Pelota with tennis.
Another uniquely Mexican sport is Lucha Libre, which means "freestyle-wrestling." Lucha Libre is a form of professional wrestling famous for the colorful masks worn by the Luchadores (wrestlers). Like professional wrestling in the United States, Lucha Libre is quite a spectacle, with rapid and dramatic maneuvers, a brazen atmosphere, and over-the-top personalities.
© Jerry Keane - Lucha Libre
Despite historical connections to traditional sports, Mexico's real national pastime is association football (soccer). Mexicans tend to be passionate people, and never more so than when it comes to football. English miners introduced football to Mexico at the end of the 19th century. By 1902 a league had already emerged. Since then, it spread across the country and grew in popularity.
Mexico’s national football team ranks as one of the best in Latin America and it qualified for 15 FIFA World Cups. The country also hosted the World Cup tournament twice, in 1970 and 1986.
© - Nahum - - Mexico Football Team Vs. Argentina, World Cup 2006
Mexico has had professional football teams since 1943. The clubs with the best records are América, Chivas, and Toluca. As Chivas only sign Mexican players onto the squad, many of their members were selected for the national team.
Baseball is also enjoyed throughout Mexico, rivaling football in popularity in some states. Mexico has produced over 100 players into the US Major Leagues, some of them considered sports legends. Mexico also has its own professional leagues. There is both a summer league (Mexican League of Baseball) and a winter league (Mexican Pacific League).
© rwarrin - Mexico Baseball Team
Mexicans enjoy many other team sports including basketball, American football, rugby, and polo. Even ice-hockey is rising in popularity. Each of these show different influences on Mexican culture, and the excitement with which Mexican’s embrace sport.
The most popular individual sport in Mexico is boxing. Mexico has produced more amateur and professional boxing champions than any other nation. Some of the most famous boxers in all history were Mexican. The Boxing Hall of Fame includes many Mexicans, such as Julio César Chávez, Sr., Salvador Sánchez, and Ricardo Lopez. Mexican boxers have a long-standing and competitive rivalry against Puerto-Rican boxers.
© WorldSeriesBoxing - Aaron Alameda of the Mexican Guerreros (Left)
Tennis and golf are also popular individual sports in Mexico. Mexico hosts many professional tournaments for both sports. Mexico has produced highly ranked competitors in golf and tennis, such as Rafael Osuna, who was ranked number 0ne in the world at tennis in the 1960s.
Mexican athletes have a strong history at the Olympic games, having competed in every Summer Olympics since 1900 and won a combined 62 medals. Their strongest events have been boxing, athletics (track and field), and diving. Mexico also became the first Latin American country to host the Olympics, in 1968. The country was represented in the Winter Olympics much less successfully, having earned no medals.
© Jimmy and Sasha Reade - Mexican Fans, London 2012
Fernando Valenzuela pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1980s. He led the team to a 1981 World Series victory over the New York Yankees in 1981.
During his 17 year career, he pitched a no-hitter, and had more than 2,000 strikeouts to his name.
Joaquín Capilla won four Olympic medals for diving in the 1950s. He is the most successful Mexican Olympian ever. In the 1956 Olympics, Capilla won the gold medal for diving.
Julio Cesar Chavez was a six-time world champion. He held the record for the longest undefeated streak in the history of boxing at 87 victories. His nickname was Mr. KO for delivering 86 knockouts. He also holds the record for the biggest turnout to a boxing fight with 132,275 fans at one fight.
Ms. Ochoa was the first, and only, Mexican golfer ranked at number one in the world, and she achieved it at the young age of 25. She began playing at the age of 5, and has had a meteoric career. During her short professional career from 2002 to 2010, she won over 120 titles and 2 Majors.
Hugo Sanchez is hailed as Mexico’s greatest footballer of all time. His professional career spanned the 1970s and 1980s, most famously for Real Madrid in Spain. Sanchez played for the Mexico national team from 1977 to 1994, scoring 29 goals for the team. He played in three FIFA World Cup tournaments. His signature was a creative style of play, and prolific goal-scoring.