The Tinku festival, held in the small village of Macha, Bolivia, once a year, is a brutal form of blood sacrifice. At the beginning of May surrounding communities travel long distances and once they arrive in Macha they sing, dance and drink large amounts of alcohol in the streets. This is done to arouse and worship Pachamama (Mother Earth) for the coming harvest. Many Bolivians hold Pachamama in high regard even though they would also consider themselves Catholics as well.
The main aim of the Tinku festival is for communities to fight each other in the hopes of shedding blood. The more blood that drips on the ground, through combat, the better the coming harvest will be. Most fights occur by fist to fist combat, but whips, clubs and barbed-wire are also know to be used. The Bolivian government knows of the festival and can only try to contain it each, not stop it.
When we arrived in Macha for this years festival we had heard stories but we didn’t know what to expect. One grim comment from our guide set the tone for the worst when she said, “The people say it is necessary for someone to die. Somebody die’s every year and they don’t stop fighting until there is a death. The more people who die in fighting the better the harvest.”
In some pits we witnessed 4 to 5 fights occurring at once. We even saw women fighting women. At one point we also saw a woman with a small baby, less than one year old, strapped to her back, as she refereed a battle between two men. The baby cried and cried and was even stuck by a wild blow thrown by one of the combatants!
As the day wore on drunk fighters swung wildly at anything, even us. The police quickly gave up on trying to monitor the fights and began pitching tear gas in the crowds when the surge of violence became too much. The officers themselves were even overrun and we were gassed 6 separate times as the fights near us got out of control.
Overall by the end of the festival two people lay dead. Hundreds more hurt in combat. Yet the people cheered, drank and sung songs long into the night. Some might defend this practice as cultural right, but that is ignorance and cowardice. If mankind is allowed to perform, in essences, human sacrifice, then at what point do we draw the line between right and wrong. Cultural customs should not be an excuse to commit murder.
To preach Christ we must be ready to go anywhere and face anything. The message we speak is not violence or death, but life and joy in Him. God bless you all and thank you for your prayers.