Christmas in the Andes

By Lele Saveri



December is a special time of year in the Peruvian state of Chumbivilcas. The girls all braid their hair and put on their finest brocade skirts and hats. The boys put on their nicest ski masks and leather chaps and affix a dead bird to the top of their noggins. Then everybody young and old, male and female, gets together on Christmas morning and beats the living crap out of each other.

Takanakuy is a fighting ceremony with roots in the Andes’s pre-Spanish, pre-Incan history. In the absence of pretty much any form of justice system—the Chumbivilcas state police department sports a whopping three officers—villagers and townspeople from the region save up their grudges and disputes for the entire year and settle them by punching their offenders in the face at Takanakuy. While some duke it out over legitimate legal grievances, others fight over girls or petty interpersonal rivalries, and a lot of folks just fight for the sake of a good fight (or because they’re drunk).

But most important of all, they do so dressed like amazing DMT-nightmare Mad Max mountain men.

Watch for video of 2011’s Christmas-day Takanakuy fighting on VICE.com, coming soon.

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