Traditional Colombian games – no electricity needed

I remember, as a child, gathering with my family around a board game. Fast forward to last weekend and I visited my nephews. We played video games and they beat me, of course. Times have changed, for sure, and so have the ways new generations play and have fun.

Group gaming is our way of staying connected with people. That is why the game of Solitaire is no longer much of a success. There is no doubt that this kind of leisure activity helps children in many different ways, even video games. According to the American Psychological Association, video games may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory, and perception. To learn more about the benefits, visit the APA website. According to the California Outdoor Recreation Planning Program, recreation has social benefits, reduces depression and relieves stress, improves the quality of life in a variety of ways, and helps people feel better about both their surroundings and themselves.

Playing outdoors was very popular in Barranquilla at one time. Streets were full of children playing games, but they have been replaced with new technologies such as Facebook, Whatsapp, video games, smartphones, and television. Bola e’ trapo is a survivor because soccer’s popularity in the city, and Colombia.

For foreigners and young people, these names might be unfamiliar, but locals in their 30s know what I am talking about. Jimmy o Yermis, Fusilao (Executed), La Lleva (Tag), Cuatro, Ocho y Doce (Four, eight and twelve), el Escondido, (Hide and seek), la Gallina Ciega (Blind Man’s Bluff), Que Pase el Rey (Allow the King to Cross the Bridge – My translation), are just some of these games that people used to play on the streets of Barranquilla years ago, and also during recess in the school yard.

In case the electricity goes out, and you can’t play video games anymore, you can play one of the outdoor games Barranquilleros used to play years ago and if you can’t find someone to show you, here are the instructions:

In Jimmy o Yermis, the group is divided into two teams. The first team will try to assemble a stack of 15 bottle caps before the members of the opposite team hit them with a small ball. If the team can build a column with the bottle caps that stands on its own without falling, they are the winner and can play again. Otherwise, the members of the team who tried to build the column but had it knoicked over by their opponent; they then need to stack the bottle caps.

In La LLeva (Tag), the person who is “it” has to try to catch any of the other players by touching them. If this person touches you, you become “it” and have to try to catch a different person to touch. Cuatro, Ocho y Doce is a variation of La Lleva, but in this case, in addition to touching someone, you have to say: “Cuatro, ocho y doce!” as fast as you can while touching that person’s back. If you can’t do it in time, you have to try to catch someone else, and so on.

Playing La Gallina Ciega (Blind Man’s Bluff) is like ‘La lleva’, but in this game the person who is “it” needs to catch another person while wearing a blindfold.

El Escondido is played like the popular game Hide and Go Seek. Here are some instructions online on how to play that game.

In Que Pase el Rey, you need at least six people. Two players extend their arms while the others pass under the human bridge, while singing a song. When the song ends, the last person in the row has to choose between two different fruit that represents each one of the members of the “bridge”. After the last participant chooses the side he or she wants to be part of, all of them stand in a line and have to pull to their side, trying to unbalance their opponent.

To play El fusilao (The Executed), a chart is created on the ground with the names of each player. To start the game, a player throws a small rock onto the chart and if it lands on top of a specific name, that person needs to grab the ball (which should be next to the chart) and chase after and throw it at the other players, trying to hit them. Meanwhile, the other players are trying as fast as they can to reach different stations – such as the bases on a baseball diamond – the stations should form a path out and back to the chart.

Once the person with the ball throws and hits another player, the game starts over and that player who got hit gets a mark on the chart. At the end of the game, the player who has the most marks (and therefore was hit the most), is the person who is going to be ‘executed’. Every player then has to throw the ball at the “executed” – although this final step can be removed.

These are just some of the popular games people in Barranquilla used to play. Comment below and let us know what games you played as a child.

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