As we move into the heart of the winter, most cultures have traditions centered around unity, peace, and new beginnings.  These take many different forms, but none are quite as fascinating as the Peruvian tradition of Takanakuy.  Nestled in the remote Andes, the people of the Chumbivilcas province come together in dance, feast, and drink.  The ceremony is one of setting injustices right and moving forward in peace and harmony.  This is achieved through Takanakuy, the Quechua word meaning “to hit each other.”

The exact origins of the ritual are not known but they stretch back through generations.  The Quechua people are known for their resilience.  This resilience extends beyond their ability to survive at such high altitudes to their ability to hold out against the Inca and the Spanish who attempted to colonize their region.  The ritual is also deeply rooted in politics as a way of rejecting the central government’s version of justice by finding their own.

Every December 25, the people of Santos Tom├ís dance and sing their way to the fight grounds.  Each participant is dressed as one of five characters, each representing a point in their history from swarms of locust to the slave-owning colonizers.  When all are gathered, fighters call out their rival in a high falsetto voice.  They are here to settle matters great and small that have built up over the year in a winner take all match.  Men, women, children, elderly, they all take part in this.  The fight starts with a handshake and ends with a hug.  All grievances are cast aside.  Revelers enjoy a drink with each other before going back to their daily lives.  In a town of just a few hundred people that is an eight-hour drive up the unforgiving mountains,  these fights bring the essential peace and harmony in their wake that allows the inhabitants to once again move forward as a small community.

6 thoughts on “Takanakuy

  1. Wow, this is extremely interesting. I like how violence doesn’t have negative connotations here, but more of a means towards peace. The story of the Chumbivilca people is so strong. I like how this is an example of how natives have always been activists and radicalist, especially when defending themselves against colonization and preserving their way of life. Justice is also a concept that has been westernized especially when thinking of colonization. I think its very important to see how different groups of people conceptualize justice, peace, and violence. December 25th is something always attributed towards Christmas. usually we don’t get to see any indigenous holidays that have that same date since Christianity is so normalized.

  2. “Starts with a handshake and ends with a hug” – this is truly interesting and inspiring. Instead of giving gifts, your cultures brings to the fore-front issues and concerns and settles them. This is a something that I would like to implement in my family – there is nothing wrong with talking about difference and in a respectful manner, settling them so that everyone involved knows there faults and positions. By doing so, everyone moves forward into a new year and new phase in life. Thank you for sharing!

  3. I love how in an entire community comes together in order to go through a social cleanse. It shows how much they care about one another. This purge of emotion is very good for a person’s psyche and mental health. It also can create a very strong sense of closeness and community, which is absolutely amazing.

  4. Wow, that is hardcore. Takanakuy reminds of the mosh pits that sprout in heavy metal concerts, where people fight in order to express excitement and fraternity. I think that many of us from Western liberal democracies have an inherent aversion to violence. But the fact is that most cultures throughout the world view violence as expressive, not only destructive.

  5. You described the tradition of Takanakuy in such a beautiful manner. The reader could picture the scene unfold before them, as if they were right there in Peru. Takanakuy sounds like an event filled with forgiveness and letting go. Allowing the participants to forgive an “enemy” and, in a way, realize there is no such thing as an enemy. You can choose to forgive anything.

  6. I love this idea! It seems very cathartic to just “get it out”. Releasing such negativity before the first of the new year (assuming the culture celebrates on or about January 1) seems a great way to start a new year. I think each of us in our own way should incorporate an active ‘cleaning of the slate’ type ritual at the finish of each year like this!

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