| El hoyito, casitas, mate,|
casitas de mate, caille
| Played in: |
|Holes captured between games|
|4 to 12 holes per row|
Hoyito (also known as el hoyito, casitas or mate) is the name of at least two different mancala games played in the Dominican Republic, at least in the area know as "El Sur", in the provinces of Barahona, Bahoruco and Independencia, and in Haiti.
The name hoyito means "little hole", while casitas means "little houses", the name given to four pieces together and mate is the name of the seeds used to play it. Kay means "house".
This information was collected by Víktor Bautista i Roca and Salvador Cases i Majoral among Dominican expatriates in Catalonia (September 2004) and by Víktor Bautista i Roca in Dominican Republic (January, February 2005).
Before, there had been no scholarly study about mancala games done in Spanish speaking Caribbean. There was, however, some research by Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvain about warri in Haiti, a country neighbouring the Dominican Republic and sharing the same island. There's no mention of mancala games in local research about games and children folklore.
The main children folklorist in the Dominican Republic, Edna Garrido de Boggs, even said:
- In spite of the black element, clear-cut in the population, its influence on the Dominican traditional culture is very scarce [...] The Haitian influence is null [...] the difference of languages always established an insurmountable barrier between both countries.
It was considered a fact at the time it was written (1950s, during Trujillo's regime). But even now (2004), in the foreword to the new edition of Garrido de Boggs' book, Elianor Grimaldi Silié said:
- As for the African tradition, it has been scarce in our land [...] In general sense, in the Dominican infantile folklore, the traditions of African origin are scarce.
However, in a three weeks visit to some areas in the country, more than one hundred informants were found who knew about mancala games.
The research was done in the provinces of Barahona, Bahoruco and Independencia. These are the country's poorer areas, with a very low population density, a strong emigration rate, and very deforestated, hot and arid regions.
The visited towns were: Barahona, Neiba, Villa Jaragua, Los Ríos, Postrer Río, La Descubierta and Jimaní. People from other places were also interviewed, including some Haitian people.
Elements of play
Formerly, the game was played with mate seeds, but now with stones, as mate seeds are not longer available. It is played on the ground, either digging holes or drawing circles on the concrete.
In Dominican Republic there are no wooden board, except, maybe, the one a carpenter can make for himself. On the other hand, in Haiti there are beautyfully painted wooden boards.
During a match, as it takes a long time to finish, players can change.
Girls are considered to be better at it than boys
Sometimes (not often) it is played betting children's little treasures, as glass balls.
It is learned and played outside house, but just in the courtyard. Otherwise, near the river.
Everyone interviewed said it's an old game, played by grandparents and before. Formerly, it was a game for everyone, specially women. Now, it is a children's game: Cuando eres mayorcita ya no juegas (when you grow up you don't play anymore).
There are no clubs, no competition and no social prestige for hoyito.
One women told that formerly, on Good Friday you could not dig holes, so you prepared the board the day before (Holy Thursday) to be able to play on Good Friday.
It is considered just a way to pass (= waste) time. Older people were told it was somehow bad:
- Eso llama a mucha miseria (recorded at La Descubierta "this calls to a lot of misery")
- No juegues a eso, eso se llama miseria (recorded at Jimaní "don't play this, it's called misery")
Women reported she were scolded when they were girls for playing and not doing their homework, and someone said that kids were not going to school just to play.
Right now, in Jimaní, a 40yo mother (Madelene) said that she punished her daughter (6yo) when she played it.
Right now hoyito is not played in Barahona (the bigger town in the area), not played in the centre of bigger villages, not played around the main road even in smaller villages, almost never played by adults. It is mostly played by children and adolescents, more in the countryside, and only sporadically.
More research is needed, especially in the countryside, in other provinces and in Haiti, and also about its relation with African mancala games from coastal Benin.
It seems that concrete is killing the game. If there were wooden boards and the game had more social prestige, Hoyito would be less endangered.
During the research at least three different games were found. One was from Haiti and called voleur. The other two shared the same name, but had different rules. In many places both games were known, but one had more prestige than the other. Their rules can be found at hoyito I (held in higher regard) and hoyito II (less prestigeous).
- Bautista i Roca, Víktor
- (2004) Hoyito.
- Bautista i Roca, Víktor
- (2005) Africa Hidden Inside a Small Hole. Paper presented in the VIIIth Board Game Studies Colloquium. Oxford. April 2005.
- Comhaire-Sylvain, Suzanne
- (1952) Jeux Congolais
- Garrido de Boggs, Edna
- (1955) Floklore Infantil de Santo Domingo. Ciudad Trujillo.