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 Tomás 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.