Peruvian fighting ritual

Renato Nunez was looking for a fight after drinking seven bottles of beer with his friends.

When he found his fight partner, Nunez stood face-to-face with him before taking his mask off. He didn't need much time to defeat his rival, who soon had blood flowing down his face.

Music played at full volume, innumerable cases of beer were consumed and a life-size baby Jesus doll was paraded around during the episode of ritual fighting that locals call Takanakuy, which in the Quechua language means "beat each other up."

While the popular festival is also held in July, the celebration is bigger on Christmas Day.

Pretty much anything goes during combat, except for wearing rings on fingers. Women sometimes also participate in the fisticuffs.

Fighting is voluntary, and no one is obligated to accept a challenge. But by refusing to participate, the challenged party by default concedes the other's superiority.

"I fight because it is a tradition and to prove my bravery," said Freddy Pacco, who wore a hat decorated with a huge, desiccated bird of prey, its wings spread wide open. The fighters wear birds or other dead animals on their heads for a more intimidating look, he explained.

In the Canto Grande neighborhood on the outskirts of Lima, Peru's capital, a piece of land used on most days as a parking lot is converted into a plaza for bullfights and regional celebrations, including the ritual fights.

Takanakuy has roots in pre-Hispanic and even pre-Incan Andean traditions.

The fights are done for sport, to resolve family and personal conflicts, to gain the love of a woman or to defend a relative or friend who was vanquished in an earlier contest.

Nestor Gabina and his longtime neighbor, Gabriel Anaya, fought over the exact line between their properties, a dispute that has even been brought before the local courts.

The fight lasted only a few minutes before the referee separated them without proclaiming a winner.

The men hugged and broke down in tears. Then they calmed the mix of adrenaline and shame with more beer.


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Text from the AP news story, In Peru, ritual fighting with loud music and baby Jesus, by Martin Mejia.


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