"Are you from Toro Toro," I asked my host, "or have you come for the tinku?"
He was a thick, well-fed man who grunted as he bent to fill his wooden chicha dipper. "I was born here," he said, "but now I return only for these three days. My belt, you will see how I use it. I whip it in circles to keep the people from coming too close to the fighters."
"I do not understand the tinku," I said. "Who fights whom?"
"Two peoples," he said. "The Laimes from the south against the Pampas from the north. They are all campesinos from the hills."
"But why do they fight?"
"Years ago they fought over boundaries or llamas or women," he said. "Tome."
I swallowed with him. From somewhere far or close came a melody—relentless, simple, plodding. A few repeated notes a man alone on a moonless tundra might blow through the hollow thighbone of an ancestor.
"There is a rumor that the priest will ask the campesinos not to fight this year," he said. "That he will tell them God does not want them to use violence."
"What will the campesinos do?"
"I do not know. Most of them are Catholics...but they also believe any blood spilled here is an offering to the earth goddess, Pachamama. No one has died for a few years in the tinku, but if someone does, they believe it will be a good year for the crops. Some in the past have even worn brass on their knuckles when they fight. But rocks are worse. It is only very bad when the women become involved, and the people reach for rocks."