By Julio Guzmán
“The Little Mestiza Devils of Hondzonot” is a Mexican softball team that has attracted attention from all over the world.
These 18 Mayan women play barefoot and in hand-embroidered dresses they made themselves. They say they play because they love the sport and because they want to break with the region’s stereotypes.
The women range in age from 14 to 40. Their love of softball was born three years ago, when local authorities launched a program to teach women sports. The government support eventually dried up, but these women used their wits to keep playing, even though they had no equipment, using tennis balls, until they finally decided on softball.
They turned the huipil, a light dress typical of the Mayan region in southern Mexico, into their uniform, as a way to show off their roots and put up with the high temperatures. They decided to run barefoot or in huaraches because they say it’s more comfortable.
“We’re very proud to wear this outfit that our grandparents handed down to us, family members who have passed. We stand out more that way. We’re proud to wear it, and we’ll keep playing in it; we don’t want other uniforms. We’re comfortable in our huipils, and we play barefoot because it’s faster to run with no shoes,” Alejandra Tuzmay, the team’s 16-year-old catcher, told Zenger.
When the Little Devils gained some popularity through videos on social media, the Mexican Baseball League team Red Devils of Mexico, based in Mexico City, donated some bats and gloves to them.
“We used to play with no gloves. We caught balls with our hands. Nobody had given us a second look, and we had no equipment. Usually, it was borrowed, and sometimes we couldn’t play because it wasn’t ours, but thanks to [the Red Devils], we each got our own glove, and we are so grateful for that,” said Fabiola Maychulim, the teams’ 30-year-old captain.
The team grew to such fame that in Sept, Stefanía Aradillas, a member of the Mexican Olympic women’s softball team and the 2020 winner of the National Sports Award, visited them and joined them in a game. That led Tuzmay to keep fighting and to follow in Aradillas’ footsteps.
“Her story really touched me,” Tuzmay said. “When she was young, she was discriminated against for being a woman in a league, and they wouldn’t let her play, even though she was very good.”
@steffy.aradillasJugué con las diablillas #fypシ #vivamexico #mexico #mexicocheck #telocuentoentiktok #storytime #parati♬ Have Mercy – Chlöe
Hondzonot is a town located 125 miles from Chetumal, the capital of the southeastern Mexican state of Quintana Roo. Its 400 inhabitants speak Mayan, the language used by one of the region’s pre-Hispanic cultures.
The machismo attitude in the region has meant that many women do not reach their goals. Tuzmay says there are cases of women who leave school because they get no support, which makes it difficult for them to have employment opportunities later. Women are not encouraged to be seen outside, especially not playing sports, she said.
“People from around here are not used to seeing women playing sports. Here, as they say, ‘only men can or have a right to go out.’ Since they’re men, they’re free and can go outside to play. Women’s chores include housekeeping and caring for children, that’s all. They’re macho,” Tuzmay told Zenger.
The panorama has changed since the women started playing softball. They say they have inspired other women to follow their dreams.
Mirna May Tuyub is the team’s shortstop. She’s a 25-year-old housewife and huipil embroiderer. She says it hasn’t been easy to break with these stereotypes.
“When I play, I can’t deny that most men don’t like it, but we’re hoping they’ll change their attitude and see that, as women, we’re also brave, we can play sports,” said Tuyub.
The women’s softball team gets together in the afternoon to practice and have fun. They play exhibition games because Mexico has no professional softball league, but that doesn’t hold them back from chasing their other goals.
“Our dream is to meet the Red Devils, travel all over, go to other countries, show that, barefoot and in our huipils, we can play this beautiful sport. A lot of people want to play with us. We’re traveling to Querétaro. We’re very happy; it’ll be our first time on a plane,” said Tuzmay.
They never lose sight of the goal of inspiring other women to go after their dreams.
“We’re proud to be women, so we want to tell all women, ‘ma’ cha’ka suulak kintaaj menu’unpi’it u muuk’ xiib’ [in Mayan, ‘don’t let a man’s efforts put you down’]. They shouldn’t be limited by barriers,” Tuzmay said.
Translated by Melanie Slone; edited by Melanie Slone and Kristen Butler
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