In the Sierra Norte Region of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, home to the Mixe indigenous people, basketball reigns supreme. The sport was brought to the region in the 1930s in an effort to pacify the community after decades of territorial disputes. The goal was to bring harmony, communication, and a healthy competition between communities. Now, the sport is as important as the religious celebrations themselves and the games are timed so that they coincide with pueblo parties dedicated to the towns’ patron saints.
I photographed the Copa Mixe, the most important basketball tournament in the Mixe region where teams from all over the Sierra come together to compete. While the winner only receives a silver cup after their third consecutive win, the Mixe people gain much more - a sense of community, friendship, culture, and political coexistence. At a time when indigenous communities are disappearing, this relatively modern sport is helping to preserve historic cultures.