April 2015

La Kajcha - A traditional Bolivian sport

Kajcha is one of the oldest and most traditional sports in Bolivia and used to be one of the most popular ones as well – however, the rise of football and racquetball has caused a decrease in Kajcha players and left Kajcha courts all over Bolivia with little to no use.

By: Victor Risager
Projects Abroad Volunteer
Dianalund Denmark


Warm up before match.
Photo: Freddy Mita

Kajcha is a tough, traditional Bolivian sport only played by men. It is a form of pelota (ball) played with the hands on a court consisting of three walls – one in front, one on the left, and one on the right. It originates from Pelota Basque in Spain, which is played with a racket. There is no official record of when Kajcha first started, but Pelota Basque dates back to the 13th century ; what is believed to be the first Kajcha court in Bolivia is from the 16th century and in the Oruro department.

In Kajcha, a hard leather ball is slapped or hit with the hand onto the front wall and can bounce off one of the side walls before hitting the ground and the opposition hitting the ball onto the front wall again. Whenever the ball is hit so that the opposition cannot reach it or reaches it but fails to make the ball hit the front wall, the team gets a point. Whenever one team reaches 20 points, the game is over.

Kajcha is a tough, traditional Bolivian sport only played by men. It is a form of pelota (ball) played with the hands on a court consisting of three walls.

Despite being one of the oldest and most prestigious sports in Bolivia, it has experienced a decrease in players over the years, with people preferring to play with a racquet instead of the devastating hits with the hand. Yet, there is not much information to be found about Kajcha, so I went out to interview one of the local players about the game he loves.


Kajcha match
Photo: Freddy Mita

PROJECTS ABROAD: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING KAJCHA?
Kajcha player: 28 years, more or less.

PA: HOW DID YOU GET INTO KAJCHA?
KP: Kajcha is a hard sport and requires a lot of work to make your hand used to the hard hits with the ball.

PA: WHAT ARE THE BASIC RULES OF KAJCHA?
KP: The rules of Kajcha are three. One is soleada, which means two players going head-to-head; cuarto is four players; and sexto means six players. When there are only two players, the ball has to cross the line in the middle of the field; when it is in quarto or sexto you can play in the whole field.

PA: WHY DO YOU LIKE PLAYING IT?
KP: My father taught me to play Kajcha, and he still plays even though he is 73.

PA: WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS NOT AS POPULAR AS IT USED TO BE?
KP: It is less popular nowadays because many people are afraid of the pain that one suffers training one’s hand, and many people prefer to play with a racquet. Anyway, in some parts of the city there are young players that you can see will become better than us. Young guys with great talents.

PA: ARE THERE ORGANIZED KAJCHA CHAMPIONSHIPS OR TOURNAMENTS IN COCHABAMBA OR IN BOLIVIA?
KP: There have big championships in La Paz and Santa Cruz, and the best pelotarios (Pelotarios is a nickname for the Kajcha players) are from the high valley in Cochabamba and some from Quillacollo and the city of Cochabamba.

PA: IS THERE AN ASSOCIATION OF KAJCHA PLAYERS IN BOLIVIA OR IN COCHABAMBA OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
KP: There is an association of Kajcha players in Cochabamba; every department has its own association.

PA: HOW DO YOU THINK IT COULD BECOME A BIGGER SPORT?
KP: I wish it will become better, but many people choose racquetball. The leaders in the Kajcha Associations should promote the sport more in the city, especially in neighborhoods where you can see sport fields and young people playing different sports, and try to organize small championships. I think this is the best way to make this sport grow.

PA: HOW IS THE BALL MADE?
KP: It is a ball of made of wood the size of a golf ball, which it is covered with plenty of thread and then covered leather. They call this rebotar – (bounce). There are a few people who make these balls for playing. Each ball cost more or less 80 bolivianos.

Even though there has been a large decrease in the number of Kajcha players, the prestigious sport is far from gone. Nevertheless, for the hard-hitting sport to become what it once was, the associations in the different departments around Bolivia need to do a better job of promoting and organizing it.


Sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basque_pelota
http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catcha

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