Por Manuel Oquendo
As we wrap up our coverage of Hispanic Heritage Month through the lens of sports and culture, we would be remiss not to include a pastime steeped in tradition throughout the Americas and the Caribbean that combines both. Dominoes is deeply rooted in our culture and has been recognized by several countries as an official sport.
According to historians, the popular board game was invented in China in the twelfth century. Over time this simple but addictive game of dotted ‘bones’, spread throughout the world until it reached Latin America, where today it is played in practically all homes, and is considered part of our culture.
There are many ways to play, but two modalities: Double 9 and Double 6, are the primary formats in Latin America. Double 9 has 55 bones and is played mainly in Cuba and by extension in Miami, while Double 6 has 28 bones and is practiced throughout the rest of the Americas.
Both modalities are equally fun, while Double 6 is a little easier to play for beginners. Compared to other sports, there are no specific physical or socioeconomic prerequisites. Several organized tournaments have even included blind players, who are aided by someone calling the last bone laid on the table, while relying on their trained memory and tactile senses to carry them through the matches.
Hispanic Heritage Month: A Game for Everyone
Inside and outside of tournaments at any given table, it is normal to see the poor playing with the rich, young, and old, men and women; all sharing fun and energizing moments while competing. Over the years the game has grown by leaps and bounds, capturing a global player base. Each year new groups and clubs are created around the world that organize regional and local
competitions in their municipalities.
Many do not know that the game is considered a sport in several countries such as Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Puerto Rico by their respective Olympic Committees. Many Major League Baseball players can regularly be seen playing dominoes in the clubhouse as a way of relaxing before a game.
Families and friends spend afternoons playing dominoes as a way for multi-generational get-togethers – parents, kids, and grandparents – keeping them active while fomenting culture and tradition with the game/sport. It also turns out that playing board games as dominoes is also categorized, is beneficial for both adults and children. Several studies have shown that board games have health, educational, and social benefits that improve quality of life.
A Healthy Activity
A study by Rush University’s Alzheimer’s Center confirmed that playing regularly promotes mental stimulation dramatically by keeping memory functioning at a higher level. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s was shown to be reduced by 47% in those who played board games more often.
Another study by the New England Journal of Medicine, which looked at seniors over the course of 20 years, found that dementia was also reduced among those who participated in activities such as board games – with up to a 63 percent lower incidence of the disease. In addition, researchers observed that people who played regularly had less risk of developing dementia in their lifetimes – a 7 percent reduction in risk if any board games were played once a week.
Regarding children, researchers found that playing board games twice a week increased elementary school children’s mental velocity score by 27 to 32 percent at Life Sciences Secondary School at East Harlem in New York City. At an early age it promotes sharing, waiting your turn, teamwork, and socialization – while enjoying the company of others.
International Domino Federation
In 2001 a group of players had the vision to organize and regulate the sport to promote the organized growth of dominoes at the local, regional, and international level, thus creating the International Domino Federation (IDF), initially based in Barcelona, Spain, now in Orlando, Florida.
The International Domino Federation – Federacion Internacional de Domino (FID in Spanish), apart from safeguarding the integrity and ensuring the growth of dominoes, also organizes and sanctions the World Domino Championship where it crowns the best player, best national team, and best doubles team on the planet. The first world championship was in 2002 in Havana, Cuba and since then it has been held throughout the world. This year, the 18th World Championship will be held in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, from October 23 to October 30.