Tinku “Punch Your Neighbor” Festival

Punching someone in whichever country you may be in is pretty much always considered a violent act. All the more when you punch someone and they get physically hurt. This can even result in you being put in jail. However, there is actually a place on Earth where punching your neighbor is actually a major festival.

tinku festival

I Macha in the Potosi region of Bolivia, there exists a Punch Your Neighbor Festival. It is celebrated every year in the first few weeks of May high up in the Bolivian Andes Mountains. This annual festival is known as the Tinku Festival. On this Bolivian holiday, thousands of people descend on the small city of Macha to partake in the traditional Tinku Festival where people in the town gather to fight their neighbors.

This celebration by thousands of people is based on the Quechua and Aymara word which means an ‘encounter’ or ‘meeting’. It is a Bolivian tradition that began as a form of war-like ritualistic combat which dates back to the time of the Spanish Conquistadors. The festival got its roots from this pre-Hispanic times and is believed to be at least 600 years old. The origin of this strange ritual came from the Potosi region when the indigenous population of Potosi faced the Spanish Conquistadors with fists and rocks thus the name tinku meaning the violent encounter.

The festival is also based on old pagan ceremonies. The Tinku Festival came from an old religious belief that blood must be shed to the earth goddess Pachamama in order to have a good harvest. Pachamama is a fertility goddess revered by the indigenous people of the Andes. She is the earth and time mother who presides over planting and harvesting, embodies the mountains, and causes earthquakes. Gods and deities demanding blood or sacrifice as tribute are common throughout history. That is why this tradition is seen as a way of sacrificing a little pain as an offering in order to ensure a good harvest for the next year. Centuries later, people took it literally to the extent that it became a yearly tradition to punch each other on this Bolivian Holiday.

Large Tinkus are held in Potosí region of Bolivia during the early weeks of May. In this tradition, the men and women of different communities will meet and begin the warlike festivities by dancing together. Then the women will back-away and form circles around the men while chanting. The men will later proceed to fight each other and, on some occasions, the women will join in as well.

Since the religious belief says that the earth goddess Pachamama demands blood as an offering, locals will punch each other to the point of actual bleeding. From there, things can escalate quickly probably because of the alcohol and the corn brew chicha. People have actually died in this. Fortunately, the police and authorities are now present during the festivities so that fights can be stopped once rocks are thrown and when the fights become more than just a one on one or after the first blood is shed.

But, the Tinku Festival is not just about the locals beating their neighbors, nor is it meant to be done for fun. This Bolivian holiday is an old religious festival that gives hope to the people to improve the crop harvest for the next year. This festival also shows the bravery of the indigenous people of Aymara and Quechua during the time of the Spanish conquest.