Piece By Piece
A Game Passed Down Through Generations

March 1st, 2010
by Benjamin Roberts


Players, friends, and family gather in Flowers Bay for one of the many weekend tournaments held every Saturday and Sunday.

Players, friends, and family gather in Flowers Bay for one of the many weekend tournaments held every Saturday and Sunday.

This weekend the games begin. No not the Olympic Games, those are in fact, finished. These games include players from all regions of Roatan’s respective municipalities, who like all other dedicated athletes will arrive with thoughts of victory in both mind and spirit. These are serious competitors, many which have their own fan base growing from the lore of the successes from years past. To them, this is not just a game, it is history, comradeship, and honor. No, this is not football. Good guess, though. This, is dominoes. As a matter of fact, this weekend, next weekend, and countless weekends before, from generations past, these games have been a vital social and cultural practice of Roatan residents and other communities across the Caribbean, Latin America and throughout the entire world for over a century, dating back to the 19th century. The game of dominoes is simply played everywhere by everybody and there are tournaments in practically every community on every occasion. It deals in simple numbers and aside from a set of playing pieces with a few friends and family, there is no further assembly required.

Two teams and four players per table keep the pieces moving and the actions flying, there is almost always a gallery around the corners of the table. Teammates sit across from each other but there is no talking or even signaling allowed or your team will be penalized, severely. One false lift of the eyebrow and you could have a problem on your hands. Sometimes the pieces slide quietly across table, from partner to partner. However where vocal noise is restricted, the playing surface makes up in an audible explosion of competition. In fact, dominoes does require one more piece of hardware, and this table is not like your typical surface used for eating and polite conversation, quite the contrary. This structure must be reinforced and fortified for the near certain beating it will endure toward the end of the countless contests that will be played. You can also be sure that following each game, you will hear plenty of “conversation” between the contestants. It seems as though the razzing is as much a part of the player’s strategy as the hand they hold. No false words being thrown around here, these islanders have known each other since they were young, and playing the game just as long.

This is very much a game handed down from generations past. And although there are certain strategies and tactics to better your odds, the true testament to the game’s longevity are its social aspects. Playing dominoes hinges on the idea that people will actually show up, inspiring offers of food and libations to attract the masses. The style of play, a 6-6 method of playing dominoes is much a like the participants, purely “island” in contrast to the 12-12 method that is popular in America and Cuba. And although the majority of sport here on Roatan revolves around a ball used for throwing, shooting, or kicking, dominoes playing is equally as important to those who play and cherish it so much. It is truly an important piece of living history. May it continue to forge new ground. [/private]

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