Home > Bolivia > 4th May – THE FIGHTS. T’inku, the most intense festival in THE WORLD

4th May – THE FIGHTS. T’inku, the most intense festival in THE WORLD

The crowd screaming, a stampede of men and women run across the plaza and then suddenly your nostrils starts itching, eyes watering and you wonder what festival have you got yourself involved in. Welcome to TINKU, Fiesta de la Cruz (a festival of the cross)

The 5hrs drive to Macha from Potosi was peaceful until the last hour and a half when there were no more paved roads, went past houses made of mud with the locals who are called the Quechua tribe dressed in their finest attire.

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Quechua women wore blouses ,thick sweaters, adorning a hat and wrapped around them at the top is a colourful warm blanket. Below their waist they wore knee length skirt, stockings and smart shoes. The men were even more colourful, from their headwear to the thick kind socks that had bells and bells on them. You could tell with the men, their attire were influenced by he Spanish with the crisscross on the front and back, and they have scarfs tucking out of their shorts to represent the cockerel.

The idea behind this festival which is held once a year was for locals to take a cross from their village to Macha which has the biggest church in the area and by doing this ritual, the priest will bless them and hopefully the following year their crops or livelihood will prosper.

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Also part of this festival is the drinking of Chicha, a local drink. When we arrived, some people were drunk already and the festivities had already began.

Being the only black man at this festival and being almost one or two feet taller than everyone and having broad shoulders I definitely stood out. I was mostly called Brazillian or Negro but not in a racist way. Definitely didn’t want attention on me.

Each village had someone who lead with a whip in the hand to ensure people from other villages stood out of their way whilst they danced and also to ensure that the villagers remained in a circle when they danced. They would dance from one corner of the plaza to the other.

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It was a brilliant sight and a great tradition that they still upheld but the danger always occurred when after a few Chichas two groups normally between the highlands and lowlands met by accident or not then hell broke loose. Participants believe in Pacha Mama (Mother earth) and they believe they must give something back Pacha Mama and the best way is blood, hence the fights.

Some years when people had died, obviously their families were sad but at the same time happy as they believe they will have a prosperous following year.

Punches flew everywhere, whips lashing aimlessly and if a local was unlucky to fall on the floor, he has his head kicked in. Most of the time I found women getting caught in the middle either doing their part in the lashings or trying to keep the peace. If the fight got out of hand the police stepped in trying to stop the fight and if it wasn’t stopped, they threw tear gas into the crowd and all scupper.

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This was my first experience of tear gas and it made my nose itch, it felt like I had allergies then all of a sudden my eyes started watering. It was painful but after 5 minutes the gas is eliminates from the air and able to breathe properly. If having high altitude was not bad enough, this made it worse to breathe.

In the afternoon, I could feel the atmosphere had changed, a lot more people were drunk and everywhere I walked I was being pulled left right and centre by drunks and unsure if it was a friendly pull or wanted a fight. I wouldn’t fight as I would get myself in a bad situation so kept out of the way. People looked and looked, made me feel very uncomfortable, I felt like I was the main show without being self centered. I was being invited for drinks with the men and as I didn’t speak Spanish nor the language of the Quechuan people, I declined. According to tourists I hanged around with during the day, it looked like they were in awe of me, some women stared a lot and others laughed.

At the end of the day, locals were passed out in the middle of the plaza, locals stumbling everywhere, women dragging their husbands and obviously husbands refusing to leave. Men went home with bloodied shirts, black eyes, bandaged heads, broken noses and eye patches.

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It was safer to travel in a group than by ourselves and when walking back to the car park I was approached and someone attempted to throw a punch at me, I moved away and the same person threw one at a tourist within our group but it didn’t connect. One girl with us was harassed, someone trying to grope her. Another guy had his testicles cupped by a guy and his wife’s breast cupped also.

Never experienced anything like this ever, it made being in Varanasi look like sun bathing on a beach. The atmosphere had been very intense and not sure what to expect next.

This tour was booked with Real Deal tours in Potosi for $350 Bolivianos and it was worth every penny. The driver was sober throughout the whole day I have to add.

En français:

Comme prévu, le réveil sonne à 4h30, on s’habille les yeux fermés et on va tous ensemble jusqu’à l’agence Big Deals pour attraper notre bus.

On va rouler pendant deux heures et demi avant de s’arrêter dans un petit villag epour le petit déjeuner. On a droit à œufs au plat, avec pain et boissons chaudes.

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La deuxième partie du voyage est moins confortable puisqu’il n’y a pas de goudron. On verra des boliviens en costumes traditionnels du T’inku sur la route. Ils vont jusqu’au village de Macha a pieds ou bien dans des bétaillères.
Nous, on arrive à Macha, la capitale du T’inku vers 10h.

Avant de pénétrer dans le village, Pedro, notre guide, nous donne quelques conseils. Il faut se balader en petits groupes, si on voit quelqu’un courir vite il faut courir aussi, il faut acheter une carte spéciale pour avoir le droit de prendre des photos, il faut éviter les foules, il faut accepter les verres qu’on nous offre, il faut être imable et sourire même si on nous embête…

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Il faut, il faut, il faut… Eh oui, le T’inku est une fête dangereuse et c’est surtout du au nombre de litres d’alcool que les paysans ingurgitent pendant les célébrations.

À 10h, la plupart des hommes sont déjà complètement bourrés, ont déjà reçu des coups et ne tiennent plus debout.

On commence par acheter la carte de photographe et puis on observe ce qui se passe depuis les hauteurs des bureaux.
En gros, chaque village fait le tour da la place principale de Macha en courant et à chaque coin, ils forment des cerclent, chantent, tapent du pieds et tout ça sous les ordres de plusieurs personnes armées de fouets.

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C’est un spectacle génial que très peu de touristes voient, on doit être une trentaine en tout pas plus. On passera donc la matinée à admirer les costumes, les parades etc…jusqu’au déjeuner.

Avant de pouvoir y aller, plusieurs combats entre les villageois des hauteurs et ceux d’en bas vont éclater et la police devra intervenir à coups de gaz lacrymogène. On pleure tous.

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Pour le déjeuner, on a droit à soupe de mouton (Hmm…), poulet à la milanaise avec du riz et boissons fraîches.
Apres le repas, l’ambiance à bien changé dehors et on voit de plus en plus de bagarres et on reçoit de plus en plus de gaz lacrymogènes.

Nos guides nous proposent de goûter à l’alcool local, “chicha” fait à base de mais fermenté. Avant de boire, on doit verser du liquide sur le sol deux fois, pour remercier Pachamama, la Terre. Ensuite, on teste les danses de tapage de pieds, c’est super crevant.

Ensuite on a de nouveau quartier libre mais on ne traîne pas trop dehors car c’est vraiment la bagarre générale maintenant. En plus, ils sont tous impressionnés par Kawsi et du coup, ils l’attrapent, on ne sait pas trop si c’est pour se battre ou bien juste pour le toucher alors on se réfugie dans le boui boui dans lequel on a mangé. Ça tombe bien car on pourra éviter les ivrognes et aussi les gaz.

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À 17h, on remonte tous dans la bus pour rentrer à Potosi. On s’arrêtera pour dîner au même endroit dans lequel a pris le petit déjeuner. Au menu,soupe de mouton (encore!) picante de pollo (poulet épicé) avec du riz et boissons fraîches.

Les deux guides qui ont bien fait la fête Macha ont acheté encore plus d’alcool et se bourra la gueule pendant tout le trajet du retour. Certains touristes s’y mettent aussi du coup ça pue bien quand on arrive à Potosi vers 22h30.

En cinq minutes on est à l’auberge et en dix, on est couchés.

  1. Dion Massey
    6 May, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    Hi guys,

    Wow what an incredible experience!! Sounds like you were at a football match in London mate!!
    Love the photos too!!

    Cheers

    Dion

    • 6 May, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      Mate, it was worse than a football match, we felt like I was walking down the street in London at night. Yeah it’s been amazing experience. When you down in South America again?

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