Takanakuy: Fistfighting in the Andes

Takanakuy: Fistfighting in the Andes


[INTRO PLAYING] [CHEERING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Hi. It’s Thomas. We’re in the Peruvian Andes. It’s the day before Christmas. All these guys are about
to go beat the shit out of each other. It’s called Takanakuy. [CHEERING AND MUSIC IN
FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Takanakuy is a
giant mass brawl that happens every year at Christmastime
in the Andes. And the basic idea of Takanakuy
is people build up their grievances all year. And then instead of
them getting in fights, they save it. And on Christmas, everybody
gets in a big fight, and that’s it. It’s like Yom Kippur
but bloodier. Takanakuy is exclusive to
the Andean province of Chumbivilcas. The province’s capital, Santo
Tomas, is a murderous 10-hour drive through the mountains
from the nearest city. We’ve been driving
for eight hours. The roads aren’t, isn’t
the autobahn. Altitude sickness is kind of
combining with your general car nausea in a fun way. A bit of car sickness and a sore
ass, however, seemed a small price to pay
to get to see an entire town fight itself. Chumbivilcas is sort of
Peru’s North Dakota. It’s pretty, filled with
Indians, and poor as the dirt they grow their potatoes
out of. Most guys here split town when
they hit 16 to work in the Andes’ illegal gold
mining industry. Because it’s pretty
much that or chase sheep around the mountain. The indigenous population here
claims descent from the Chanka people, who not only resisted
the Spanish when they invaded, but the Incas before them. The area is cut off from the
rest of the country. There’s basically no police,
no military presence, no government services. All of which plays into the
local sense of defiance against authority. A lot of Chumbivilcans also
speak the native Quechua language instead of Spanish,
which doesn’t help so much with the alienation. VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: I haven’t
been in a real fight since middle school. So I figured what better place
to relearn the trade than a town so testosterone-charged
that they beat each other up for Christmas. We arrived a little before
lunch to find festivities already in full swing. [MUSIC PLAYING] THOMAS MORTON: The lead-up to
the Takanakuy fights is a week-long parade of drinking
and dancing through the town street. Oh, this way. This is kind the start
of Takanakuy. So what’s happening right now
is all these dudes in the chaps and, like, the
animal things on their heads are fighters. There’s a big procession
right now. Through the town they’re,
like, banging on doors. They’re like, come out
and fight basically. The real gist of it is just
that, like, everybody is kind of coming together, playing
some pretty boss sounding music. And pulling everyone out for
the fight, which I think is tomorrow morning. [CHEERING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE
AND PLAYING MUSIC] THOMAS MORTON: I’m either a part
of these guys tribe now, or they’re all going to
beat me up tomorrow. The traditional Takanakuy music
is an indigenous genera called huaylia. The lyrics mostly deal with
rebelling against authority. And it’s so devoid of any
Latin or other Western influences. It sounds like Peking opera. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Hualyia is played
on an endless loop, much like American
Christmas music. But doubly maddening because
every huaylia song literally uses the same chorus. This is the same damn song. This is the same song. VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: So we just
got here this morning. None of us have slept. Been drinking a lot. The altitude sickness
is overpowering. And we’re dancing with a bunch
of guys who look like things I’ve seen on DMT. MALE SPEAKER 1:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Well, the
costumes everyone wears fall into five basic characters. There’s the majeno, who wears
traditional horse riding gear from the area. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Then there’s the
qarawatanna, who basically takes the majeno and Mad
Maxifies it with a biker jacket and huge leather cowboy
chaps that looks like Aeon Flux boots. Then they put a dead bird
or a deer skull up top. This looks pretty popular
with the young guys. Whose cap am I wearing? Then you’ve got the negro, whose
outfit’s based not on Negroes, but rather
the kind of guy who used to own Negroes. So he’s a slave master,
basically. [CHEERING] THOMAS MORTON: And finally
there’s the langosta, which means lobster in Spanish,
but also locust. In the 1940s, Chumbivilcas
had a plague of locusts. So the men naturally started
dressing up as them to fight. And the next year all
the locusts left. So that pretty much sealed
langosta’s place in the Takanakuy pantheon. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Of course, you
can always just go q’ara gallo, which means
naked rooster. Which means no costume. Which basically means
you’re just drunk. The one thing everybody wears
is the traditional Peruvian ski mask. This dates back to the days
when Takanakuy was the one time a year you could beat up
your boss, or the big town land owner. So disguising your identity
was pretty key. The voice they’re supposed to
use to fight people and challenge people is this
high-pitched falsetto thing. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE
IN FALSETTO] THOMAS MORTON: There’s nothing
more terrifying than that, an angry drunk dude with a ski
mask talking to you like Tweety Bird. As fight time grew near, the
atmosphere in town started getting a little aggro. MALE SPEAKER 2:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MALE SPEAKER 3:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MALE SPEAKER 4:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] MALE SPEAKER 4:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: After the third
or fourth parade, I ran into a couple of majenos practicing
for the next day’s fights. So I asked them for some tips
on fighting Takanakuy style. OK. So what should I do? MALE SPEAKER 5:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Kick that? VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: OK. It might be the alcohol
speaking, but I think I’m getting pretty comfortable
with it. You try to kick as
much as you can. And then when you’re
in there, you just pound a bunch of stuff. I’m probably, you know, going
to get my face broken. But pretty fun. [SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: In typical
fashion, I left all my Takanakuy shopping until the
day before Christmas. Oh, here we go. So I had to hit the town quickly
and put together an outfit that wouldn’t mark me
as a total brain dead. I went for a majeno with a light
splash of qarawatanna [INAUDIBLE], horse and eagle. Give them a little horse, then
I’ll give them some eagle. Just kidding. He may have to grapple me. Got the guns. Got the toro. Pretty solid. This might be for kids. Everything OK? This is good right? OK. I think that’s it. I’m good. All right. I’m ready to go fight. Fully outfitted for Christmas,
I headed back to my hotel to rest up for the big day. CHILD:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Morning. Merry Christmas. Last night we got in a firework
fight in this hotel room with the kid across the
street whose parents own a firework store. So that was pretty dumb. Oh, shit. I haven’t gotten
too much rest. Oh, fuck you, kids. Damn it. Ahh! Feliz navidad. Kids in Peru, man. Let me get ready to go
watch some fights. Put on my jacket, ski mask. All right. Ready for some Takanakuy. What do you think? Oh. That was rough. [MUSIC PLAYING] THOMAS MORTON: The mood in
Santo Tomas on Christmas morning is convivial and family
friendly, especially in light of the violence everyone’s
on their way to watch and take part in. This is the Takanakuy ring. Everybody in masks you see is
here to fight or be fought. A lot of areas in the Peruvian
and Bolivian Andes have similar fighting festivals
to Takanakuy. What distinguishes them from
Takanakuy, aside from obviously not falling on
Christmas, is in Chumbivilcas, the whole village takes part– guys, girls, old drunk men,
even little kids. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: The fights are
intense, but fairly orderly. Punching and kicking
is allowed. But there’s no biting
or hair pulling or hitting guys on the ground. There are also amateur officials
in the ring who carry whips to make sure things
don’t get too one-sided or out of hand and also to
perform basic crowd control. VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Things just
got a little nasty. [BREAKING UP FIGHT] THOMAS MORTON: That just
got way out of hand. Dude picked up a rock and went
after the other guy. It’s a little bit tense. VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: This is
the kiddie portion of the fight now. This guy looks like
he’s pushing six. [CHEERING AND MUSIC PLAYING
IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Is he crying? That kid took a hard blow. VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: I don’t think
I’ve ever been in a place where the idea of
law seemed as– kind of negligible. There’s obviously something
a little incongruous about watching children and old men
pummel each other’s faces to meat on the Christian world’s
traditional day of peace. At the same time, the second the
fight’s over, everybody’s all hugs and beers. Which I feel captures the true
spirit of Christmas. At least better than getting
drunk with relatives you don’t particularly care for. Tomorrow, there’s another
Takanakuy in a village called Llique that’s sort
of the real deal. And that’s where the fights are
a lot harder, and where everybody here who has a
grievance that they didn’t solve in Takanakuy goes to, to
like, really get it done. We’re going to go there. And I’m going to
fight some kid. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Morning. It’s the day after Christmas. We’re in a van going
to Llique. This village is about 300
meters higher than Santo Tomas, which means higher
in the Andes. We just passed like, cliffs
sides that look like they’re out of Land of the Lost. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: The origins
of Takanakuy are a little nebulous. The festival’s name derives from
the rein of Tupac Amaru, the last Incan king to resist
the Spanish conquest. But there’s widespread debate
as to when the practice actually started. And whether it has more to do
with indigenous rebellion or with Spanish duelling traditions
introduced under colonialism. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: We’re just
going to Llique. The festivities here have
been kind of going on for a few days. There’s been dancing,
everybody’s been drinking. It’s a bit of a scene already. Hey, hey, what’s up? Que pasa? MALE SPEAKER 6:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Yeah. It’s like what, 9:00
in the morning. There’s like 4 or 5 beer bottles
at those guys feet. Everybody’s dancing their
way into the church. [PLAYING MUSIC] THOMAS MORTON: Looks
like a nice little church breakfast scene. It’s kind of weird. Everybody’s wearing what
look like devil masks. But I guess that says something
to the fluidity of religious thought up here. [CROWD SINGING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Up in Llique,
the huaylia music was still fucking going. VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: The dancing up
here is a little less ornate than down below, a little
less bird-like. But that may be the result
of them partying for like three days. [MUSIC PLAYING] THOMAS MORTON: Beats normal
Sunday services. VICTOR LAIME MANTILLA:
[SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: That was a
pretty brief service. I kind of liked that. Let’s see where they’re
going now. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: After a few more
drinks, it was finally time to head to the town center
and watch the fights. This village has like
300 people in it. But on Takanakuy day, it goes
to 3,000 because everybody comes in here. Because these are the guys
who are the best fighters in the region. Which is cool because we want
to see some good fights, but not so hot for me because I
have to fight one of them. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: It’s like a Roman
Colosseum, replete with like dudes with whips. It was pretty clear from the
get-go that Llique’s reputation is well earned. Even the kids’ fights here
were a million times more intense than the ones
in Santo Tomas. [CHEERING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Someone was
showing me how to wrap this until we got whipped by a
guy who was pretty rude. This is the guy I’m fighting. He owns a pet eagle, has two
girlfriends, and rides a motorcycle. He’s also taller than me,
and he has long hair. I’m not looking forward
to this fucking fight. Jose was fighting a rival before
me, which gave me the opportunity to see what
I was up again. And hopefully get a
little handicap courtesy of said rival. I’m starting to freak out. My bowels just clenched, man. So I haven’t had any
training for this. I don’t think my opponent has
either, but I’m pretty sure my opponent’s life is training. [MUSIC PLAYING] THOMAS MORTON: You ready? OK, this is it. Oh, fuck. I got nailed. [INTERPOSING VOICES] THOMAS MORTON: I may not have
won the fight or come anywhere close, or at any point look like
I ever could have, but all the townspeople seemed
pretty psyched to watch a gringo fight and lose. So at least I gave them that. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Truthfully, as
far as makeshift justice systems go, Takanakuy’s got a
lot going for it, especially compared to our courts. Their turnover rate for cases
is extraordinarily quick. The results are immediate and
satisfying for the winners. And if you’ve got a problem with
them, you can always go back in the ring
for an appeal. The rest of Peru may look down
on Takanakuy as a symptom of rural backwardness, but while
they’re sitting in a lawyer’s office filling out reams of
paperwork, the plaintiffs of Chumbivilcas already have
their arm around the defendant’s shoulder
and are drowning their problems in beer– not a bad way to spend
a Christmas. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE] THOMAS MORTON: Still dancing. [MUSIC PLAYING IN FOREIGN
LANGUAGE]

100 Comments

  1. For a cultural tradition practiced for hundreds of years they are surprisingly bad at throwing punches. Still better than the Vice pleb though.

  2. I really like this, honestly I would wanna do this as well since I’m 14 and like 6”2 I guess I would classify as a child, right?

  3. I laughed when he was trying on the masks like he was trying to hide his identity when he’s like the only white guy fighting 😂😂

  4. What if you challenge the guy that stole your goat, slapped your wife and burned your house down.. but he also just happens to be a better fighter than you? Him getting to kick your ass on Christmas just seems like a weird form of 'justice' to me. 😅

  5. These are the kinds of cultures that diversity destroys. Imagine integrating that society with a strong kickboxing culture like Moroccans, Chinese, and Thais. Either the outsiders modernize the natives' primitive form of kickboxing, or the natives resist the massive change to their tradition and eject/kill the outsiders. There could be no middle ground.

  6. On behalf of all white people, we don't all fight like this… honestly who the fuck gets spun around in a fight. Hahaha

  7. At least he tried and for that I can respect him, more than half of the ppl who comment here don’t have the gonads to do it

  8. FUCK i am in 2020 getting drunk and beat my neighbors grandson who 28 years old meth head because he threaten his grandmother several times and she 80 years old and does nothing but help his sorry ass and wants him gone ,threaten me in front her she said nothing to me but told him go for it big boy ,mother went to sleep in cold and she went in house and locked the doors . he needed it

  9. The whole world hates black people??? Even mountain Mexicans??? Wtf. Now I get to start my day bummed out, thanks world.

  10. I'm glad your partner didn't let loose! Very classy move on his part. Also very ballsy of you to step in there against him!

  11. I am Definitely going to remember this next year at Christmas. " Yea, I got presents right here for everyone!" Bangs fists together

  12. I give hella respect to the reporter for having the courage to fight. He might be weak and small but his spirit is strong. Also his opponent is a real man for showing such restraint.

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