The Hilando America Project


 The Hilando America Project is a social community project – with recreational and educational purposes – currently operating in South America. Workshops are conducted both in Native communities and educational establishments. The objective of the project is to retrieve and disseminate an ancient pastime known as the string game.


As often is the case throughout history, many cultural community practices were threatened by different social, political and economic factors. Unfortunately, those influences effected the ancient way of living, thinking and playing. The string game, that illustrated legends and mythologies, literally became unthreaded in time due to rapid changes in society. Wartime advancements and modernization practically eradicated this ingenious indigenous game.

Given this scenario, the Project seeks to rescue this recreational activity and awaken the interest in children of the community by returning their history to them. Additionally, Hilando America not only plans to recover that game, but also the stories and legends that accompanied its realization and significance of the string figures made.

The string game will be used not only to discover the similarities between people; it instills respect for their differences. Since many identical figures were made in the same manner, the set of threads give an exceptional historical recognition to these similarities and differences. A comparison of these frameworks, contingent to both the habitat and the multicultural context of each community, will provide context to the significance and to the interconnectivity of the game.

Considered one of the oldest games played, The string game has existed for thousands of years on our planet. Known in both classical Greek and ancient Roman cultures, The string game, possibly began in the Far East. In South America, «sunbeds» or «cribs» used in the game centuries can still be found. This extraordinary hobby involved tribes from Africa to the Arctic, as well as Asian, European and American communities.

In the Americas, the string game was much more than just mere entertainment. Natives from different regions developed this activity as a way to transmit values and legends, as well as illustrate and explain the meaning of the stars in the universe. The game used a simple string as an extraordinarily effective vehicle. This simple string, tied on the toes and fingers of the story teller and then manipulated, serves to unite generations by forming figures that are magically wrapped in legends immemorial to accompany the oral stories from the elders.

The string game was also part of many rituals and prophecies. Success or failure for everything from a bad harvest to a possible love affair depended on the format of the final figure in the strings. However, as each town developed its own figures and defined the meaning with their own worldview, sacred elements, landscapes, natural phenomena and daily tasks, each community across the globe attributed their beliefs and mythologies to the thread or string figure. Therefore, many times the same final figure was repeated in the most distant places, yet gave each group a totally opposite meaning. So where Navajos saw an arrowhead, Eskimos saw a fish and where the Mapuche saw an ostrich egg, the Wapishana saw a star and the Pacific Islanders saw a bat. Unfortunately, this unique historical perspective – this legendary and magnificent event – is now often forgotten or hidden in the memories of the often shy tribal elders.

Revalue The Importance of Play 

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their personality, imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them. Games with threads can be vital to children since it can promote these developments harmoniously. There is a reason to be a kid and that is to engage in play!

In particular, an interactive wireless game has many positive side effects. Fernando Auciello, psychologist, teacher and game specialist, says in his book «Games, players, toys …» that they «were extremely rich and creative; one huge community such as Buenos Aires is far from reaching such a playful level.»

In fact, in contrast to the vast majority of modern toys that can stifle imagination and creativity, with the string game children can reinvent and create their own way to make the figures. «And something very important: beauty, aesthetics and artistic expression, since games yarns are a beautiful synthesis between game and art,» says Adolfo Corbera, professor of Physical Education Northern Neuquén, specializing and promotes the activity with their students.”

From an intellectual standpoint, children will develop mnemonics memory by playing the string game due to the series of steps essential to reach the game’s conclusion.  Play will also support emotional development by providing ways to express and cope with feelings during the game. Both verbal and nonverbal communication skills are supported and an appreciation of others are developed during ongoing play. Finally, in string figures requiring two or more people, dialogue and teamwork it is promoted.

Moreover, from a social and cultural aspect, the game acts as a phenomenal thread, or gateway, to the world view of each community involved. As the playfully stories are transmitted, natural phenomena explained and legends illustrated, the child not only plays but begins to understand their own and other cultures. This in turn, leads to a direct relationship between generations, thus fostering collective memory.


The project emphasizes children’s workshops, although various activities for parents, grandparents, community members and teachers will also be available. The workshops consist of different stages that respect the preferences and requirements of the institution or community visited. Schedules and specific interests of the participants will also be considered therefore creating a flexible program respondent to their real life that allows them to become involved and able to actively participate. Teaching staff and other stakeholders will be contacted in each community regarding content and workshop coordination. In addition, the mode will be developed with consideration given to the characteristics of the group involved. This will include, but is not limited to, the amount and intensity of time spent on collective work with particular attention paid to maintaining the norms of daily life with minimal disruption.

With the infinite advantage of using play as the centerpiece of the workshops to engage the children, the sessions are designed in four stages.

  • Exploratory stage.
    • This is an introduction of the Project Managers to the entire group. During this planning portion, Managers will facilitate discussion with regard to the community’s games with specific focus on the parents and grandparents. Details such as why the game was chosen and who originally taught the game will be investigated informally. Whether any game thread or any particular figure(s) is known or recognized by the group will be also explored.
  • Introduction to the world of the threads.
    • Project Managers, accompanied by a screen projector with reference images and the world map, will playfully tell the story of the game thread giving special emphasis on its universality.
  • Ready to play.
    • After a fun warm up/ice breaker style exercise, Project Managers will run the first string figure. They will also assist each child with their own thread by making the first moves and basic openings.
    • The Project primarily shares ten thread figures, using the most diverse communities on five continents. The goal is to represent the global, universal nature of the activity. Then, the activity will turn to relevant local community legends and the stories that they illustrate.
    • The Project Managers, using both the map and the projector, will locate and show through images of other /tribes and the string figures they have created. Brief summaries of workshop results from other locations will be presented at this time.
    • Beyond the dominant figures, central to the workshop due to the easy to understand nature, other fun and interesting figures will be selected for the group photographs. String figures of divination and magic will also be highlighted.
  • Collective string figures.
    • In conclusion, figures made by the group will be raised and carried by the children in a closing ceremony.
    • As was throughout the workshops, parents, grandparents, other family and community members will be included in the ceremony.
    • Discussion will follow. Subjects will include the importance of play, cooperation and respect to achieve worldwide understanding.


The purpose of The Hilando America Project, through the string game, is to recover the set of strings and their meanings with emphasis on the communal spiritual aspects. By doing so, Project Managers are ultimately culturally immersed into the practices of the peoples, as well as the skill sets of the various communities and civilizations. Therefore, by visualizing and recording this embedded indigenous knowledge and the respective culture, diverse worldviews will be shared and appreciated. Through contact and dialogue exchange with the communities visited, data will be interpreted and communicated. The mission is to enrich the communities by reigniting and sharing the passion of the string game


The Project provides and retains the necessary transportation and housing accommodations for the Project Managers. We will travel, live and cook in our vehicle. We will not disturb the locals, in any way including leaving no external waste.

The Project provides and retains the necessary technological devices for registration and for workshops including, but not limited to:

  • Camera
  • Camcorder
  • Digital Recorder
  • Notebook
  • Projector Imagery
  • World Map.

The Project will award institutions and the participating children supporting fact sheets and certificates as well as the string figures made in the workshops.

The Project will have a web page that will serve as a platform to feed and show these world views people who want to travel with us, updating and narrating the different experiences and workshops.

The Project will record the experience and disseminate the images, testimonies and writings collected as well as videos made of the workshops. The materials and publications generated will be shared with communities and institutions visited by the project.

The Project will make a documentary of the experience and will retain the rights of said documentary.

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