The Tinku Festival of Bolivia is perhaps one of the most violent, non-animal related events that one could experience. It takes place in May of each year and the theme of the event is shedding blood to give to the Earth to ensure a good harvest. People get together and ritually beat the tar out of each other and it concerns no sporting events.
The festival is 600 years old, dating back to a time when there were only indigenous people living on the continent. Nowadays, they gather in the city of Macha and some other, smaller towns and continue to honor this tradition.
It begins with people dressed in colorful, traditional costumes dancing, stomping about and drinking heavily of the 90% grain alcohol that is popular among the poorer classes. From there it escalates into some semi-playful striking and eventually becomes a full fledged brawl. It’s not a free-for-all fight, however, and the matches pit two people against each other for each conflict.
Almost exclusively men take part in the Tinku, the women instead forming circles around them and chanting the entire time. The men take their place in the center and duke it out. Sometimes, in order to do more damage, they’ll put rocks in their hands to make the punches hit harder or wrap their hands in cloth covered in glass shards to shed more blood. Usually they wear leather caps to protect their heads and some opt for thick belts as well, to keep their stomachs safer. Towards the end of the event, the fights have been known to get so violent that police usually have to step in and intervene.
The purpose of the blood is as an offering to the earth goddess, Pachamama. It also used to serve a dual purpose by helping to settle some of the angst that various clans had against each other. Back in the day, deaths were not an uncommon event. Today, it’s mostly injuries and the occasional trip to the hospital. If you really want to see something different, take a trip to Bolivia during Tinku, but be prepared to see blood. This event is definitely not for everyone.