Strik­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties: Fight­ing the good fight

The Expositor (Brantford) - - WEEKEND - RICK GAM­BLE

On Dec. 25, the res­i­dents of Chumbivil­cas prov­ince in south­cen­tral Peru will be cel­e­brat­ing, but they won’t be deck­ing the halls. They’ll be deck­ing their op­po­nents.

Christ­mas Day is marked with a fist-fight­ing fes­ti­val called Takanakuy, which trans­lates as “to hit each other.” Think of it as the Fist Noel.

On the morn­ing of the fight, in places like Santo To­mas where the tra­di­tion started, peo­ple gather in the plaza in front of the church to eat a dessert sim­i­lar to fried donuts. Church bells ring to com­mem­o­rate the birth of Je­sus then ev­ery­body moves to the lo­cal bull­ring be­cause fight­ing at the church is strictly for­bid­den.

Though men do most of the fight­ing, women and kids also get into the act. No­body knows how the tra­di­tion be­gan but it likely came from ini­ti­a­tion rites mark­ing a teenager’s en­trance into adult­hood, or was in­tro­duced by the Span­ish along with cock­fights and bull­fights.

Re­gard­less, the fes­ti­val now lets the Quechua peo­ple cel­e­brate who they are. As one study of the rit­u­als ex­plained, “They are ex­pres­sions of a sense of be­long­ing to a spe­cific cul­ture, and it af­firms their val­ues. It reaf­firms and strength­ens their cul­tural iden­ti­ties [and] al­lows them to dis­tin­guish them­selves from oth­ers.”

That’s re­flected in the colour­ful masks worn by fighters. Re­sem­bling ski masks, they’re dec­o­rated in red, green, yel­low, and white, sym­bol­iz­ing the four cor­ners of the cos­mos, and paired with cos­tumes de­pict­ing char­ac­ters from An­dean his­tory.

The most com­mon out­fits re­sem­ble those of Peru­vian horse­men and in­clude leather chaps and hats, but many young peo­ple add biker at­tire and sturdy, dec­o­rated boots. To look more men­ac­ing, they also adorn their heads with stuffed birds or an­i­mals.

More wealthy fighters wear for­mal clothes in­clud­ing fancy waist­coats and silk capes — call­ing to mind the slave masters of colo­nial times — and oth­ers don shiny ma­te­rial to rep­re­sent the lo­custs that dev­as­tated the re­gion in the 1940s.

As for why the peo­ple fight, ri­vals and rel­a­tives square off to set­tle per­sonal dis­putes that sur­face dur­ing the year. High in the An­des, there are few po­lice and some vil­lages are hours away from a con­ven­tional court, so the fights are of­ten used to set­tle le­gal mat­ters.

But some fight just to prove their courage and mas­culin­ity. Even friends mix it up, just for fun, and pum­mel each other with big smiles on their faces.

Though rules vary, most towns in­sist fighters wrap their hands with cloth. Punch­ing and kick­ing are okay but it’s for­bid­den to bite, pull hair, or hit some­body when they’re down.

Win­ners are de­cided by ei­ther a knock­out or a rul­ing by of­fi­cials, who carry bull-whips to en­force rules and keep the crowd un­der control.

Af­ter the fights — which of­ten last only a minute — op­po­nents are ex­pected to shake hands or hug, then most join other rev­ellers for singing, danc­ing, pray­ing, and the drink­ing of beer or a thick, fer­mented corn drink called chicha.

Lo­cals say let­ting ev­ery­body blow off steam in the fights stops peo­ple from car­ry­ing grudges or let­ting things fes­ter, clear­ing the way for a hap­pier new year.

Though au­thor­i­ties have tried to stamp out the fes­ti­val, it’s now spreading to Peru’s largest cities and at­tract­ing non-Indige­nous peo­ple of all in­comes and back­grounds. That’s mak­ing the ob­ser­vance more pop­u­lar but wa­ter­ing down its orig­i­nal sig­nif­i­cance.

Sound fa­mil­iar? The par­al­lels be­tween Takanakuy and Christ­mas re­ally are strik­ing, even though the two seem di­rect op­po­sites. Think about it.

If you look past all the talk of peace, joy, and good­will to­ward all, the mean­ing of Christ­mas is rooted in vi­o­lence be­cause its true sig­nif­i­cance is found in the bloody cross of Easter. The good news is not that Je­sus was born a baby, but that the baby grew up to be a Lord and Saviour who gave his life on Cal­vary to set us free from sin.

Christ went toe-to-toe with Satan and won. So like Takanakuy, Christ­mas rep­re­sents the throw­ing off of slav­ery. When we keep Je­sus at the cen­tre of the cel­e­bra­tion, Christ­mas is a mark of our iden­tity and dis­tinc­tive­ness.

It af­firms our spir­i­tual val­ues and dis­tin­guishes us from the other cul­tures around us.

And once we truly em­brace the depth of God’s love and sac­ri­fice for us, the Christ­mas story should help up put things in per­spec­tive, re­solve dis­putes, and clear the way for a hap­pier new year. From the manger to the cross, Je­sus demon­strates the sur­ren­der of power and po­si­tion, and com­plete obe­di­ence to God’s will.

That ex­am­ple should in­spire us to don the cloth­ing of our par­tic­u­lar cul­ture.

“Above all,” we’re told, “clothe your­selves with love, which binds us all to­gether in per­fect har­mony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For... you are called to live in peace..” (Col. 4:14-16)

In­ter­est­ingly, the apos­tle Paul com­pares liv­ing that life to a fist fight. “Pur­sue right­eous­ness and a godly life,” he says, “along with faith, love, per­se­ver­ance, and gen­tle­ness.

“Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eter­nal life to which God has called you.” (1 Tim. 6:11, 12) “I’m not just shad­ow­box­ing. I dis­ci­pline my­self, train­ing to do what I should.” (1 Cor. 9:24-26)

Peace through con­flict? Sure. We have peace with God be­cause Je­sus came to con­front evil. Even when we must con­front each other, good things can hap­pen when we truly love one an­other, act with the proper mo­tives, fight fair, and carry for­ward no grudges or re­sent­ment.

This Christ­mas, fight the good fight. Put up your dukes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.