Ritual Fades Into Blur of Drinking and Fighting

Discussion in 'Sports, Adventure Training and Events' started by armchair_jihad, Feb 12, 2007.

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  1. For hundreds of years, the Indians of Bolivia’s high plains have trekked to this town in early February. They dance, drink chicha, the fermented beverage made here from rye, and then fight one another until blood stains the dirt alleyways.

    Before the drinking and fighting began, villagers paraded through the main plaza carrying flags and playing traditional instruments.

    The ritual, called Tinku, a word that means “encounter” in both Aymara and Quechua, was once widespread throughout the Andean world, predating the arrival of the conquistadors. Anthropologists say it now tenuously exists just in this isolated pocket of Bolivia, seven hours southeast of La Paz by bus on a washboard dirt road.

    To the chagrin of Roman Catholic priests who would like to see Tinku fade into the past, political officials here want it to survive.

    “Tinku is a sublime, beautiful act,” said Wilson Araoz, the mayor of Sacaca and a leading official in the Popular Indigenous Movement, a party that is part of the coalition supporting Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president.

    Emboldened by Mr. Morales’s efforts to strengthen Bolivia’s indigenous cultures, Mr. Araoz’s party is one of several political organizations pushing to preserve endangered traditions like Tinku.

    “There’s a predisposition in all of us to do Tinku,” Mr. Araoz said in an interview. “I believe that denying that impulse is harmful.”

    No one disputes that Tinku can be harmful, at least physically. The fighting, though ritualized through music and dance, is far from organized, less like boxing and more like street brawling.

    Not everyone takes part. Men of roughly equal size and age square off against each other on the streets surrounding the plaza, though sometimes women also enter the fray. Some of the men wear leather helmets and gloves and carry woven coca-wallets. But the fighting can also be bare knuckle.

    In one fight at a dirt intersection, two men in their 50s punched and kicked each other for about 10 minutes, their faces bloodied as a crowd cheered them on. By the time exhaustion overwhelmed them, both were still conscious, though in a trancelike state.

    Bystanders sometimes step in to break up contests that become too lopsided. In addition to bruised faces and limbs, deaths sometimes occur.

    No one died at this year’s Tinku here, but blood certainly flowed. Some of the fighting evolved into generalized rock-throwing brawls with screams of aggression in Quechua and Aymara.

    Some of the Tinku fighters could be found passed out on the ground, though it was not clear whether concussions or chicha were to blame.

    “It was a good year, but slower than before,” said José Acuña Gabriel, 22, a Quechua-speaking Indian who wore a colorful ceremonial vest over a secondhand Operation Desert Storm T-shirt.

    “There are profound things within these people that I still don’t understand,” said Carlos Ortigosa, a Spanish priest who has lived in Sacaca for the last 10 years. “But basically Tinku is an event in which people kick each other when they’re down and die with some frequency. It’s not agreeable to see people treating each other so badly.”

    Anthropologists say Tinku represents much more than fighting. But the fighting, often between members of different communities, can be a way to confirm or defend collective landholdings, or to bring good fortune at harvest time.

    It is also a chance for young men to show off in front of women from other communities. Couples often meet at Tinkus and marriages are known to result.

    Tristan Platt, director of the Center for Amerindian Studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said Tinku’s origins were hard to pin down though indigenous communities might have practiced something similar as far back as 1100. The periodic channeling of communal violence may serve to reduce conflict during the rest of the year, he said.

    In full

  2. Is this PARA Reg heaven? People in old operational commemmorative tee-shirts, hundreds drunk and unconscious and people kicked to death where they lie? Fighting ritualized to music and dance - though no mention of lager? It sounds like the 'Shot on a heavy weekend mid-eighties!
  3. 'sublime' ..... is this in a para CSM's vocbulary ?.
  4. Seriously, change the names and we could be talking about Abertillery in the late 1950s.
    On Saturdays 'gippos' would ride ponies down the valley from Brynmawr. 'Roughs' would come over by bus from Ebbw Vale. 'Thugs' would come up the valley by train from Pontypool and Newbridge. All these elements would congregate at our Saturday night dance in the Market Hall. Why? Well we had all the prettiest girls in the Western Valley. Mind you the Brynmawr boyos only came for the fighting. They were so ugly they stood no chance of getting a girl.
    Abertillery was a town of 30,000 and we had over 40 licensed premises. Nobody got thirsty.
    The Police Sergeant was called Griffin, or more normally 'Sir'. He was big and he loved Saturday nights. He would wait until the 'kick-off' and only pile in, with a huge stick, when he got bored. Nobody was ever charged and nobody ever complained about police brutality.
    Lovely days - gone forever.

  5. Tell you what ISQUARED, it has'nt changed that much,just that its now Sunday night and they all go to The Arena.Looks like the Star Wars Bar