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3 May 2021

A man prays as the Crosses are blessed after the mass outside the church.

Every May, and coinciding with the Festival of the Cross, communities around Macha in Bolivia gather in the city and, to honour the Pacha Mama, they celebrate the Tinku or “The Encounter” in Quechua.

Before going into the city of Macha, the communities first perform the Wilancha, an animal sacrifice ceremony in honour of the Mother Earth (the Pacha Mama). This, while also drinking chicha (an alcoholic beverage made from corn) is done in gratitude for the harvests.

Once in Macha, the men and women of the Ayllus enter the main plaza dancing and singing and they carry the Cross inside the church for it to be blessed at the mass.

Soon after, the celebrations turn into violent street fights. The combatants drink 96% alcohol to get ready for a hand to hand, face to face fight in order to show their bravery and strength. The “rings” are formed by people, their relatives and, in recent years, the police by encircling the fighters. As it happens, the police also act as referees, able to stop a fight in case someone falls to the ground, in an effort to avoid deaths.

Even though the one-on-one fight has been the norm in recent years, things can get out of control quickly. In a matter of seconds, an all-against-all brawl can start, with kicks, punches and even stones being thrown in an effort to defeat the adversaries from other towns. The police intervenes with tear gas in these cases.

With this ancient Andenean tradition, the Tinku honours the Pachamama (Mother Earth) in hopes of a fruitful harvest the following year.