Orange Coast College students can learn the native origins of American sports coming up in a CLEEO (Counseling Latinx for Equity and Engagement) Summit Event, “Ulama: The Mesoamerican Ballgame” on March 22-23. 

CLEEO, created by OCC counselor Eric Cuellar, is funded by the SEA (Student Equity and Achievement). Its purpose is to counsel, engage and encourage academic success from Latinx perspectives while maintaining a culturally sensitive lens. The project also encourages equity for education beyond a postgraduate degree.  

“[It’s] a program that’s intended to address disproportionately impacted communities on campus, and as well focus on developing and creating awareness regarding cultural (bicultural, multicultural) competencies,” Cuellar said. 

Cuellar said starting the program was inspired by his personal experiences of attending high school conferences like CLEEO and that he wanted to extend the opportunity to OCC students.

“[The conferences] were very positive in regards to contributing to my mindset in persisting through college. So I figured that was something that was very instrumental,” Cuellar said. 

Dr. Manuel Aguilar, professor of art history at the California State University, Los Angeles, will be presenting his research he conducted by sending eight students to Mexico to observe the game Ulama and interview players. His work has been published in the Smithsonian Magazine and The Economist, amongst others. 

“Anybody that has the ambition, and is hungry to get opportunities, you can do it,” Aguilar said.

Ulama, a sport based on the prehistoric game, Ullamaliztli, was played by Aztecs and Mayans in Mesoamerica dating back 3,500 years ago, according to Aguilar in his article published by the Magazine of Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian

“I thought it would be interesting for the audience to learn of where the origin of the rubber ball comes from, and where we get these sports that we enjoy so much like basketball, soccer and so forth,” said Cuellar.

Aguilar included in his work that if the game of Ulama discontinues, the world would lose the oldest team sport. 

“We went into this project with the idea to [bring stability and to help] the game not die,” Aguilar said.

The event will be held on March 22-23 at 3 p.m. to 4:15 p.m through Zoom. For registration information, contact

To learn more about Aguilar and his work, visit his profile on the Cal State LA website.

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