Tinku

28 May, 2015 | Eliza Wood

Festivals

PHOTO: CATEY STAHL

Each May, crowds of indigenous Bolivians flood the streets of the small town of Macha, in southern Bolivia, to take part in a fiesta lasting several days. Despite initial appearances of being a traditional Bolivian festival with colourful clothing and musicians hustling amongst the busy streets, Tinku is not a typical celebration. Competitors travel down from their rival communities to take part in brutal one-on-one fist fights.

After days of strenuous combat, the streets are littered with bodies. However, despite their bloody faces and torn clothes, most of the comatose figures sprawled across the alleys have been overcome not solely by their opposition but by alcohol—specifically, chicha. The cheap beverage is made from maize and can be brewed at home. Trails of men can be seen struggling beneath 200-litre jars of chicha whilst scores of women sell the drink in large cans throughout the blood-stained streets. Although the tradition of Tinku has changed slightly over the last decade thanks to an increase in tourist attention and subsequently more attention from the authorities, it is clear that chicha still holds the same importance as ever.

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