The crew and I decided to take a walk in the country today. We didn’t have any tours scheduled, so it was nice to have some down time. As we were walking, we heard a set of cheers. We looked around but didn’t see anyone. So we walked a little farther and saw a crowd was gathered behind a set of homes ahead. Of course we were interested in what they were watching, so we walked over.

The crowd was standing around this large, long, rectangular court. It was blocked off by wooden boards. It looked like the center was flattened dirt or pressed mud. I think one game had just ended, and when we got there, another was about to start.

There were two teams of four people. One team was wearing blue sweatpants with a white stripe and white-collared shirts. The other team was wearing red sweat pants with white-collared shirts. Each team did a 1-2-3-break! and three of the team members stayed at the end of the court and one team member went to the other end. A neutral person took this small, golf ball-sized ball and tossed it towards the single team members. Then the game began for real.

Bolas Criollas match - Photo by the Federacion Venezolana de Bolas Criollas y Bochas

All of the team members took turns rolling a round shot towards the little ball. I’m not sure about the rules or how you play, but all I know is each person took a turn rolling a ball. A few minutes later the game was over and the crowd was cheering. I was thoroughly confused, but it was cool to see a new game. It reminded me of bocce ball, but with MUCH heavier balls.

When we got back to the hotel I put “dirt court and rolling balls” into a search engine and the words Bolas Criollas came up. It said this game came to Venezuela with Spanish monks during the same time as the conquistadors. The native Llaneros adopted the game from the monks and for centuries perfected the rules and play. Bolas Criollas became an official sport in 1956, and now has a national team in Venezuela, Colombia, and Cuba. This game united genders and social classes through the years. It seemed pretty cool. Maybe next time I’ll get to try playing!

Activities:

  1. Describe how the game Bolas Criollas is played.
  2. How did this game start in Colombia?
  3. Do people in the US gather outside (in parks, etc.) to play any games? Why types of games?