Incas descendants from Chumbivilcas and their fighting festival Takanakuy
Women enjoy fighting at the Takanukuy festival in the Peruvian province of Chumbivilcas.
Photo from WorldPress
The province of Chumbivilcas is situated in the Andes in South Peru. The Inca called it "Chumpiwillka" (holy scarf). According to the Peru 2005 Census 77,721 inhabitiants live in an area of 5,371.08 m. There are about 77 rural communities. Chumbivilcas is looked upon as one of the poorest regions of the country. Half of the population is younger than 16 years. In the rural communities families with eight and more children are not unusual.The people in Chumbivilcas speak Quechua. Because of the migration of a high number of rural people to the towns the Spanish language (castellano) is getting more and more influence. School children are taught bilingually by law.
Regions across the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes have traditional fighting festivals and ceremonies as an outlet for this type of mountain-born aggression. Rules about who fights whom and what weapons you can use (if any) vary from place to place, but the general gist remains the same, as does the expected goal of social catharsis and the collective venting of pent-up steam. The festival is known as Takanakuy, everybody fights everybody, and it happens bright and early Christmas morning.
"Takanakuy", which means "when the blood is boiling" in Quechua, is an annual and ancient celebration inherited from the pre-hispanic Chanka culture. One of the source of the Takanakuy tradition is Rumi Maki, an ancient Peruvian combat technique known to the Inca people.
Fight between women in traditional skirts
The practice started in Santo Tomás, the capital of Chumbivilcas, and has now spread to other villages and cities, the prominent ones being Cuzco and Lima. The festival consists of dancing and of individuals fighting each other to settle old conflicts or simply to display their (wo)manhood.
The tradition of gives hundreds of Andean villagers the chance to solve their love, honor and property problems through the force of blows as a way to put differences behind them before the New Year. Takanakuy is an ancient fighting festival that used to practice by the Incans. It is related with the traditional distrust the judicial system. During the festivals, the fighting is combined with folk music and dance. The festivals last for three days. On the first day, the participants settle in the place; on the second day is a fighting day individual fights are held and after that spectators and participants celebrate - eat and drink, faces all until the third day, during which they gather their wounded.
Referees shall ensure that the parties adhere to the ritual combat with pure physical effort is not seriously hurt. In fact the referees of contemporary bouts always stop the fight as soon as one of two contestants just starts getting the upper hand or if the fight lasts too long. The winner gets to call himself/herself Qorilaso. The festival ends with a ritual dance of all parties involved.
As far as sport aspect of the festival is concerned, it is very close to kickboxing. At that, some female combatants demonstrate not just passion and ferocity but also good fighting skills. And what is most important, they take the blow surprisingly well.
Takanakuy may appear like a mindless display of violence, but to the people of Chumbivilcas it’s an important part of their cultural heritage. Whatever problems they may have with each other, fighters hug before a fight, exchange a few blows and then put everything behind them and become good friends again. It’s a simple and effective way to get rid of negative energy.
A legal student from Lima said to a CNN reporter: "The average villager in this region has basically no access to lawyers or courts, and even if they travel to a place where they do, odds are the ultimate judgment will not be in their favor. Using violence as a means of solving disputes may seem barbaric to people in the cities, but as you can see, the fighting here is all carefully controlled and the people involved get an immediate and cathartic result," he told me as we watched two teenage girls pounding each other's visibly contused eye sockets with their bleeding fists.
In fact, the Peruvian legal system basically doesn't extend into the hills of this region, so instead of packing into a van every time they've got a beef with their neighbor, the rural residents of Chumbivilcas save up their grievances all year then take justice into their own fists at Takanakuy. In some villages the police department consists oif three men who play the role of supervisor with whips during the Takanakuy festivals.
Property disputes, stolen girlfriends, stolen boyfriends, stolen sheep, spilled beer -- all issues big and small fall within the bounds of Takanakuy's physical jurisprudence. While not everyone fights over a serious legal matter - the better part of combatants just do so for sport or because they're drunk -- those who do so are bound by the results of the match and are generally satisfied by them win or lose (although there have been occasional, impromptu "appeals").
Many of the fighters cover their faces with traditional colorful ski masks and hang different stuffed animals on them, to scare opponents. Some fighters leave the bullring with blood flowing from their mouths and noses, but none of them hold a grudge, knowing they’ll have the chance for a rematch the following year.
Fights are voluntary and no one is obligated to accept a challenge. But by refusing to participate, the challenged party automatically acknowledges the superiority of their rival. So, the refusals are quite rare.
Fighters call out their opponents by their first and last names. Then they proceed to the middle of the circle and start fighting. Fighters must wrap their hands with cloth before the fight. Biting, hitting those on the ground, or pulling hair is not allowed during the fight. The winner is selected based upon a knockout or intervention by the official. There are amateur officials who carry whips in order to maintain the crowd under control. At the start and at the end of the fight, the opponents must shake hands or give each other a hug. If the loser of the fight disagrees with the outcome, he or she can appeal for another fight.
Once the female fighters are usually stopped at the height of fighting, they sometimes attempt to beat their way to the opponent through the guard bodycheck and guards might get some beating too.
The excitement in the audience at the Takanakuy fights peaks when two women wearing traditional multicolored attire including colorful multi-layered skirts come out into the ring. The spectacle reminds of a rooster fight: the fighters passionately and adroitly jump at each other and swing their arms and legs, while their flowy skirts wave in the breeze. The battle of two robust matrons in skirts accompanies with loud roar of spectators.
Interestingly, fighting in Takanakuy style become a part of beauty contests among Andeal women "Miss Mamacha Peru". Peruvan newspaper La Republica announce such a contest whcih would be held in the Exhibition Park in Lima on July 27, 2012. The competitions included "Takanakuy (fight), dances, meals, walk and culture."