Preparations for the annual "Tinku" festival, which takes place in Macha a town in Bolivia's southern highland region, have begun with organizers hoping to promote the once ritualistically violent festival as having a peaceful atmosphere suitable for all audiences. Previously, participants formed large circles and chanted while the men fought each other, however, over the last few years many of the violent elements of the festival have been phased out to make it more inclusive.
"Formerly there was violence, but now (things have)...changed," said Mario Cordoba, the executive secretary of Chayanta province, where Macha is located.
Speaking at the Ministry of Cultures of Bolivia in La Paz where “Tinku” celebrations were being launched, Cordoba said "The party is calm. There are some who want to start (violence), but we impose punishments on those who want to initiate such acts.”
The "Tinku" festival is a Bolivian Aymara tradition; the word "Tinku" means “meeting-encounter" in the language of this Indigenous group. It is an ancestral rite, which included hand-to-hand combat between the "ayllus guerreros", indigenous clans from the north of Potosi, and the south of the neighboring Bolivian department of Oruro. The tradition marked an offering of the blood of a combatant to Pachamama (Mother Earth) to improve the crops and time of harvest, according to traditional beliefs.
Years ago, the Bolivian police had to intervene on occasion to control the party, due to excessive alcohol and violence.
Cordoba, however, stressed that "peace reigns throughout the party to demonstrate joy and culture." The present-day encounters aim to "incentivize traditions" and bring the local "culture to the national level."
The Festival will be held from May 3 to 5. People from all over the country are expected to attend the festivities, which has attracted over 50,000 visitors in previous years. People often come from neighboring countries such as Chile and Argentina to participate each year in the dance and festivities.