The people of Santo Tomas have no legal authority and most people settle their disputes through fights.
Human relationships are complex and even the best of friends can sometimes fight, and develop grudges. With time, we have seen so many of our better relationships sour. Sometimes it's our friends, sometimes family. Have you ever looked back and wished you can undo all the fights and pain, and revert to better times? Have you ever wished you had a clean slate and you could start all over again? Well, a fighting festival named Takanakuy in a small town in Peru, gives you just that — a clean slate. Takanakuy, means "to hit each other in Quechua." The people of Santo Tomas, Peru, fight each other to settle their grudges on Christmas. The festival sees people, including children and the elderly, fight to settle scores and kick off Christmas with a new slate.
The small Peruvian town of Santo Tomas celebrates "Takanakuy" every December 25th. Men, Women, and Children settle grudges with fistfights. Then everyone goes drinking together, ready to start the new year with a clean slate. Read more: https://t.co/E4YtDKGCEH pic.twitter.com/GyOppTxHfN— All Things Interesting (@mrstrangefact) August 3, 2021
The run-up to the Takanakuy festival sees people drinking and dancing in costumes that are a mix of traditional Andean horse-riding gear and nightmarish visions of their acid trips. On Christmas morning, the people of Santo Tomas head to a local bullfighting ring and beat each other up. Some are often inebriated when going at each other. It starts with the participants giving each other a hug before beating each other up with full force, and often in the face. The festival also has a referee who has a Roman-style whip and keeps the crowd and the fight from taking a dangerous turn, intervening when it gets one-sided. The festival is an annual ritual for the people of Santo Tomas and it reflects the people's will to survive in extreme conditions, reported CNN.
Those living above an altitude of 8000 feet often experience sickness. This small town is 12,000 feet above sea level and is on the side of a cliff. Their food is mostly limited to potatoes and animals they can catch on the jagged slope, which calls for extreme endurance and toughness. Santo Tomas is the capital of Chumbivilcas, which is one of the poorest in Peru and is cut off from most resources and even government services. It's so cut off that the Chumbivilcas police force has all but three officers, and the nearest courthouse to Santo Tomas is a 12-hour car ride away.
The Peruvian legal system doesn't extend to the mountainous region so they decide to beat each other up and settle scores. So if you've got an issue with your neighbor, you wait till Takanakuy to sort it out and then start the new year with a clean slate. The Takanakuy festival does have its rules but even in the small town, they vary from place to place. Very few places allow for weapons but mostly it's always about using hands. The idea behind the festival and the fight is always the same — to purge your anger and grudge and attain social catharsis. The festival ends with everyone drinking and starting anew.
The common sparks of disputes that eventually lead to fights include property disputes, stolen girlfriends, stolen boyfriends, stolen sheep, spilled beer. The main idea is to always let out all your anger and not let it consume you. "The average villager in this region has basically no access to lawyers or courts, and even if they travel to a place where they do, odds are the ultimate judgment will not be in their favor," said a legal student from Luma who had made the trip to watch the festival. "Using violence as a means of solving disputes may seem barbaric to people in the cities, but as you can see, the fighting here is all carefully controlled and the people involved get an immediate and cathartic result." Getting drunk, dancing, and beating the hell out of each other? Sounds like Christmas to me.