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The Tinku, a Bolivian Traditional Dance

There are many traditional dances in Bolivia and my favorite has always been the Tinku. In the weeks leading up to Carnaval, dancers practice around the university, and I have the pleasure of getting a sneak peek. Carnaval in Oruro is the culmination of months of rehearsal, but this weekend, my roommates and I stumbled upon what was essentially a practice parade through the streets of Cochabamba. We were immediately drawn to the chorus of drumbeats, brass bands, and particularly, knee-high boots adorned with bells. Each traditional dance has a story behind it and the Tinku is no exception.

The word “tinku” means ‘encounter’ in Quechua and ‘physical attack’ in Aymara. Historically, men (and sometimes women) from different communities meet and fight in praise of Pachamama, as the bloodshed is considered a sacrifice. Tinku festivals usually last two to three days. Participants usually wear helmet-like headgear which are often decorated. Because of the rhythmic character of the fight itself, a dance was not a far stretch. Dancers are often crouched, with arms thrown out (often with fists, to signify the fighting) and the dance itself is punctuated by kicks. It is thrilling to watch, especially when the dancers are in a large group and everyone is synchronized. I can’t wait to see the dance performed (among many others) at Carnaval in Oruro.

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