Chinchilagua – An Extreme But Fun Childhood Game
A mural in downtown El Paso depicting the old school game Chinchilagua is giving me all sorts of nostalgic feels from my childhood.
The mural depicting the Mexican game Chinchilagua is visible on the corner of Oregon and Father Rahm – near Sacred Heart Church in downtown El Paso created by artist Victor Mask Casas.
This mural immediately brought up all sorts of memories for me because we used to play this game all the time as kids, and it’s probably why I low-key have back issues to this day.
I grew up in Los Angeles, but we would head to El Paso to spend our vacation with our family every summer. Back in the day, during the long summer days, we spent our waking hours playing at the park or venturing downtown hitting up the Kress store, exploring, and playing games such as Chinchilagua.
Chinchilagua is a back-breaking game that originated in Mexico, and it pretty much was an extreme sport for neighborhood kids. No one knows what the word means but the match consisted of 2 teams.
One team would arrange themselves, beginning with one person (or pillow) up against a wall. Simultaneously, the rest of the teammates would create a human balance beam by bending over at the waist and interlocking their arms and hands around their teammate’s legs and ducking their heads. Once the line formed, the second team would stand in line, each taking a turn by running up to take a massive jump onto the backs of the formed chain or burro, kind of like leapfrog. Before each jump, every kid would yell out:
“CHINCHILAGUA ARRIBA VOY Y SI SE CAE EL BURRO NO PIERDO YOOO!”
Loosely translates to, "Chinchilagua here I go - if the donkey breaks, I won’t lose."
The goal of the jumping team was not to fall, while the purpose of the bent-over team was to hold steady as the opposing team jumped on top of their backs, and if the chain broke well, then you’d lose, and the other team got a chance to do the same.
While it may sound extreme and dangerous, playing Chinchilagua was so much fun. We would play this game over and over during our summer nights in El Paso. I was usually the youngest of the group, so that I would be the pillow up against the wall most of the time. Although being the header to the burro also meant getting the full thrust of your team pushing forward into your stomach as you tried your best not to get the wind knocked out of you each time a player took their turn jumping.
This game not only kept us physically active it also brought us together as friends laughing, getting our knees scraped as we fell to the floor when the chain broke.
That mural reminded me of how grateful I am that I got to be part of a generation that played outside with such revelry, where imagination ruled, and bonds were made. Thanks, Victor Casas, for capturing such a wonderful childhood memory – it gave me all the feels.
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