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Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck: Dominoes

Marty McFly and Doc Brown had the Delorean to go travel through time; We have the Tu Vez Blast-From-The-Past Truck. Every week, we’ll hop in our time traveling machine, gun it to 88 MPH, and go back in time to bring you the best from the good ol’ days. Will it be a clip from an old telenovela? An old school music video? Stick around and find out!

By Jack Tomas

When my family gets together, dominoes will be played. It’s not even a question. Every nuclear family has a domino table and several sets of dominoes. These can vary from an old card table to the super deluxe hand-carved wooden and leather model my uncle has. It’s just what happens: The men sit outside, drink beer, smoke cigars, and play dominoes while the women stay inside and gossip. It’s not that women aren’t allowed to play, they absolutely can and do. It’s just that it tends to be a male only affair. It’s the tabletop game of choice of Latino male bonding.

Dominoes evolved from the Chinese game Mah Jong, which is still popular among Chinese immigrants and old Jewish ladies in Florida. It was brought to Italy in the middle ages and morphed into the dominoes we know today. The Spanish brought dominoes to the Americas along with smallpox and Catholicism. There are many different domino games, but essentially it is a blocking game. You play either on your own or in pairs, and you try and get rid of all your tiles while simultaneously blocking the progress of your opponent. The tiles are all laid face down in the boneyard. The tiles are then mixed around, after which you pick your tiles. You then begin building lines of play, matching tiles with the same number of pips. Whoever goes out first wins. In Cuba, we say the loser has been put in “pollon”, which loosely translated means, “To be placed atop an erect phallus”.

If you go to Spanish Harlem or Washington Heights in New York on any given night, there will be people playing dominoes on card tables outside their apartments. In Miami, you can go to the park and see old men playing bones all day and discussing Castro’s imminent demise, (yeah, right). Dominoes isn’t a Latino only game, of course. It’s hugely popular throughout the South, in the African-American community, and in the mid-Atlantic states. Still, it is a large part of our collective Latino culture. If all of us were to come together and sit at the metaphorical domino table of our shared heritage, how long would it take for us to solve all our problems? Probably, about 8 beers and five games.

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