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Brawl festival: an ancient custom in the Andes

   In some remote rural areas of Bolivia there is an ancient ritual known as the "Festival of Brawls". During this annual festival, people drink and revel, sing and dance, fight each other, bleed all over the floor, and even cause death. The locals call this ritual "tinku", which means "encounter" in the language of the South American Indians. One of the most important festivals for Bolivians is the "Festival of Brawls", a harvest thanksgiving festival after the annual agricultural harvest. In the harsh winter of the Andes in the Potosi region of Bolivia, people used this lively and fierce folk celebration to express their gratitude for the harvest and their good wishes for a good harvest in the coming year.

  When the frenzied riots of the "Festival of Fighting" reached their climax, bloodshed and even death often occurred, and the local people regarded this bloodshed as a sacrifice to "Mama Pacha", the earth goddess believed by the Incas.

  According to local tradition, the "Brawl Festival" refuses to accept foreign tourists, so this secret custom of the local Indians in the Andes has been unknown to the outside world. But in recent years, with more media coverage of the peculiar custom, some tourist agencies in the city of Potosí have worked with locals to develop a "Festival of Brawls" sightseeing tour, allowing outsiders to visit the Andes with little to no local inhabitants for centuries. What a changing tinku ceremony.

  One of the most famous is the "Fight Festival" of an Indian community called Macha. Macha has a population of 3,000, is poor and remote, located in the Andes at an altitude of 4,000 meters, with brick houses and dirt roads built around a central square. There is a stone-built church that can be reached by car 6 hours north from Potosi. During the Spanish conquest, Potosi was covered in silver, and today the rich hills overlooking the city leave only a hazy shadow of the silver hills of yesteryear, where the silver mines are nearly depleted after centuries of predatory mining.

  On a clear and cold morning, a group of curious tourists, led by a guide, set out from Posito City to the Indian Macha tribe. Before getting on the bus, the tour guide gave everyone a glass of corn wine called "Jikai" brewed by the locals to bless the journey. After a bit of driving on the bumpy road, the visitor stopped at a ramshackle-looking roadside shack and ate a bowl of porridge made with rice and potatoes, here's where they can prepare some biscuits and bottled water the last stop.

  When we arrived in Macha, it was already dusk, and the local square had already presented the lively atmosphere before the "Fighting Festival", filled with stalls selling fruits, sharpening knives, and repairing shoes. After the meal, the 33-year-old pastor Henan Tarque introduced: "90% of the residents here are Catholics, but some ancient cultures and traditions in this area are still passed down to this day." On the

  second day, the visitors walked for 20 Minutes to a village called Macha Camaka. The first day of the grand festival of "Fighting Festival" has begun. In this small Indian village, camels and dogs are seen running between adobe houses, and the village is surrounded by a barren red land.

  The elders in the village wore costumes that imitated the Spanish conquistadors, and hung a cross with an image of Jesus Christ on their chests. Other villagers, dressed in brightly coloured festive costumes, swigged Jikai wine, sang and danced while whipping each other, and people were already immersed in the carnival of small-scale scuffles.

  The women and children were on the periphery, sitting by the fire, boiling corn and beans in pots, and some of the earliest "victims" with bruised noses, bruised eyes and split lips had slumped against the stone wall. Carcasses were divided as offerings—the carcasses of camels that had just been killed, and they were boiled in pots. Visitors wisely distanced themselves from the frenzied crowds, and tension was already beginning to fill the air.

  The next day, the villagers of Macha Village gathered to dance and drink. Past grudges—from theft of livestock to love triangle disputes—were vented and resolved with fists in this carnival. But it's not just about the noise of the wine, it's also a movement for them, a way to vent, an opportunity to pay off old debts, but most importantly its symbolism. According to their tradition, the blood shed on the last day would make the rocky land fertile, especially if the dead villagers were able to bless the coming year with a great harvest. If someone died, they would not report it, but quietly deal with it in the village; if they were interrogated, they would remain silent.

  In the square of Macha, local Indian women wear traditional long skirts, embroidered shawls, and walk through the crowd with whips in hand. If they find someone who is unruly and mischievous in the fight, they will bring him With the last whip, the cowhide hats on their heads indicate that they have the right to "enforce the law." In the fierce fighting among the villagers, this kind of cowhide hat can also protect them from the "bomb" damage of the flying stone flow.

  When night falls and the moonlight fills the cobblestones of the square, the atmosphere becomes even more fiery and frantic, with the drunken and ecstatic people splitting into factions, fighting each other and throwing punches. The women dragged their long skirts and sang and danced to the rhythm of the music. They played their music on an Andean guitar that was half bamboo flute and half lute. While tinku appears to be a free-for-all melee, there is a peculiar dance move, at least for the first day or two. But by the third day, the alcohol-fueled frenzy turned tinku into a chaotic scuffle.

  When the dancers were also involved in the center of the square, people's emotions became more and more high. Finally, the police came to the scene to intervene, trying to exert a little influence on the violent crowd. However, some injured people retreated to the roadside alleys to lick their wounds. Afterwards, they will rejoin the chaotic warband.

  At night, the first batch of wounded was received in the small hospital in Macha. Outside the hospital, the women were looking for their injured husbands. The ground was full of blood and urine. The tour guide warned the tourists that the guests had to leave on the morning of the last day of tinku, which is the third day. outsiders saw the final scene of the brawl festival.

  Before leaving, as visitors said their goodbyes to Father Henan, Henan said wearily that the church did not approve of such a violent tinku ceremony. 'We don't want to see casualties, but we cannot change this practice overnight,' he said.


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