From The Telegraph:
Bolivian men and women in violent harvest festival punch up, in pictures
Pictures: Martin Pashley/Solent News
Thousands of villagers high up in the Bolivian Andes have taken part in a street fight with the aim of ‘spilling as much blood as possible’. Men and women dressed in colourful clothes take part in the violent ritual – known locally as The Machu Tinku – in order to please the local Goddess Pachamama so she will allow a fruitful harvest.
The fighting takes place in Macha in the Andes and is considered a sacred rite of the Quechua Indians.
The centuries-old event sees thousands of Quechuan, descendants of the Incas, from across the Altiplano region, where one village will circle another before the violence erupts.
The photos, which feature in the second edition of Union Magazine which is now on sale, present a close-up look at the fighters. Martin Pashley, 44, co-editor of Union, visited the religious event for the publication and described the fights between rival villagers as “short but brutal”.
No jewelry or knuckledusters are allowed during the fighting and kicking is strictly forbidden.
Attempts to ban the Tinku by local authorities and the Catholic Church have all failed as thousands of villages continue the tradition each year.
Only 30 police officers, armed with batons and tear gas, are there to control the crowds. While watching the fight Mr Pashley, who was with a local guide, was punched by a local and hit by another villager with the butt of a whip.
“A panpipe starts up and the storm breaks out ferociously all around us,” explains Martin. “The first five minutes are a pure chaos of panpipes, Incas running around, screaming women, cops whipping people, a god-awful panpipe dirge and flurries of cocoa leaves falling through the air. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the fighting but as the initial phase dies down I begin to see how it’s working.”
“What looks like a disorganised riot from the outside is actually a highly ritualised dance. One village will circle in front of another rival one, getting faster and faster, psyching themselves up for the confrontation, then at the perfect moment the tangled mass will show their champion – man or woman and battle will start. It is beautiful.”
“The more blood, the better your village’s luck will be next year, and the better the crops will grow. If there isn’t any blood, Pachamama won’t be happy.”
Union magazine is a quarterly publication, and costs £8. The independent magazine is available online at http://www.unionmag.co.uk