Team Carta Blanca, Est. 1952
The Hoops Abuelas prove you don't have to age out of your sport, as long as you just keep playing.
For nearly seven decades, a group of extraordinary women have slipped on their canary-yellow jerseys and cast giant shadows on the basketball court. They take great pride in their home city of Orizaba, listed among Mexico's Pueblos Mágicos, or magical towns; aside from its lush, mountainous landscape, cinematic fog and vibrant architecture in tones of hot pink and lime green, Orizaba is the home of team Carta Blanca, a source of magic all of its own.
From the moment it was founded in 1952, Carta Blanca's players have defied stereotypes about women and sports. Adela Ochoa Garcia, a natural athlete with close-cropped white hair, has played since day one—over 67 years. She remembers a time when women weren't supposed to wear shorts or ride bicycles, let alone know the adrenaline rush of a basketball soaring from their hands and dropping through the net with a satisfying swish. Good thing the rewards of playing this game have always been worth the obstacles.
"I'm running, giving it my all. I give until I even amaze myself. All of my stress leaves me. Basketball is relaxing for me".
María Lourdes Mora Jiménez, #8
What does being part of the Carta Blanca team mean to you?
Olga Irma Arey Islas, #5: Basketball unites us and we are growing more every day. Even if we get angry at a game or on the court, ultimately we are a team and we support each other. That's what we've always done. Knowing that someone cares about me is really satisfying and comes with a feeling that can't be explained.
Cecilia Garcia Luna, #10: We've known each other for a long time. I'm so happy to be here. And I'm very proud of my teammates, that we're still active. I hope we can continue for a long time.
María de los Angeles Bautista Ruiz, #4: It's about coexistence, it's a pleasure to be with the team—it's fun.
What are some of your teammates' nicknames?
Olga Irma Arey Islas, #5, aka "The Cricket"
Aracely Rodríguez Vivas, #9: My teammate Olga has always been called "the cricket".
Olga Irma Arey Islas, #5: Because everyone always said I was so skinny that I could fit in a matchbox.
Aracely Rodríguez Vivas, #9, aka "The Artist"
Olga Irma Arey Islas, #5: We gave Aracely the nickname "the artist" because she would go in to have a shower and come out with her hair combed, make-up on, fully ready.
Guadalupe Morales Quirazco, #6: We always say, "here comes the artist".
Maria Gisela Limon Ortiz, #4, aka "The Beep Beep"
Maria Antonia Villegas Garcia, #13: We call her "la beep beep" because she's really fast.
What side of you comes out when playing basketball that we wouldn't see anywhere else?
María Lourdes Mora Jiménez, #8: I'm running, giving it my all. I give until I even amaze myself. All of my stress leaves me. Basketball is relaxing for me.
What's your signature shot?
María de los Angeles Bautista Ruiz, #19: I'm pretty fast, so I'm a forward. My signature shots are layups and mid-range shots.
Guadalupe Morales Quirazco, #6: I also like getting right under the basket and shooting.
Maria Elena Miron Herrera, #13: I'm a forward and my specialities are hook shots and free throws.
Maria Gisela Limon Ortiz, #4: I do mid-range shots.
Georgina Silva Villegas, #16: Mine are shooting threes and mid-range shots.
What do you do together, how do you spend time together off the court?
Guadalupe Morales Quirazco, #6: I really love all of my teammates. We support each other in everything. We always look for an excuse to get together, really any day we get the chance. It's beautiful to gather with them.
Olga Irma Arey Islas, #5: Conchita was ill a few days ago, and Toña also got hurt and wasn't feeling well. We might not be together physically, but we're always communicating through WhatsApp or talking on the phone—one way or another, we always support and are there for each other.
Teach us a cheer!
Over the past seven decades, attitudes towards female athletes have come a long way, but the sight of an abuela (Spanish for "grandma") draining a 20-footer is still revolutionary. What legacy will they leave on the game? Lulu hopes Carta Blanca will inspire people of all ages to move: "Sport means health, friendship, companionship", she says.
It seems to be working: On game day, the team's husbands, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews show up to cheer from the sidelines—and shoot hoops with their hometown heroes after the final whistle blows.
This story was reported in November 2019.