Takanakuy Date in the current year: December 25, 2024

Takanakuy Takanakuy is an annual Christmastime festival held in Chumbivilcas Province in the Cusco region of Peru. The vibrant celebration features traditional music, dancing… and public fist fights! The primary purpose of the Takanakuy festival is to help people settle grievances and let out the pent-up aggression accumulated over the year.

Takanakuy is a Quechua word that can be translated into English as “to fight”, “to collide”, or “to hit each other”; an article on bbc.com offers a loose translation of the word, “when the blood is boiling”. The festival originated in Santo Tomás District and has since spread throughout the province of Chumbivilcas and even to other provinces, such as Lima.

Every year, entire villages and towns would congregate around improvised arenas to watch members of the community throw punches and kicks at each other to resolve conflicts and enter the new year without the baggage of old grievances. However, Takanakuy is so much more than a series of organized fist fights; it is a colorful celebration of Andean culture.

Most participants dress up in vibrant costumes, portraying one of the several types of traditional characters. Costumes are typically inspired by traditional clothes, such as horse riding gear or outfits worn by colonial slave masters, but some types of costume have modern additions such as leather biker jackets. Many fighters wear brightly colored ski masks with traditional designs representing a specific region.

Fighting is usually preceded by community gatherings and a colorful parade. In the morning of December 25, the people of the community would get together at the local church to have breakfast and a drink before the main event. After the breakfast, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of people march through the streets of their village, town or city to the location where fighting is supposed to take place.

Takanakuy is open to people all ages and genders: the young and the elderly, men and women. Its main purpose is to give people an opportunity to settle disputes and resolve conflict in a public forum and thus to strengthen the community as a whole. The rules are pretty simple: kicking and punching are allowed, while biting and hair pulling are not. It’s also forbidden to hit your opponent if they’re lying on the ground.

Opponents fight inside the spectator circle as the audience cheer them up. The fight ends when one of the fighters gets knocked out or when the official intervenes and announces the winner. At the start and at the end of the fight, the opponents must give each other a hug or shake their hands. After the fight, they are expected to forget their grievances and let bygones be bygones. When the fighting is over, people dance to traditional music and celebrate.

Although Takanakuy originated as an indigenous tradition, it is now celebrated by people of all backgrounds. The government of Lima has tried to eradicate the festivities, but the Takanakuy festival persists in both rural and urban areas because it provides a much needed outlet at the end of the year.

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