UWEC’s Wide World of Sports

Having a beer and a few explosions on the side

Photo by SUBMITTED

Advertisement

Drinking while playing with explosives doesn’t always seem like the best idea. However, the people of Colombia would seem to beg to differ in one case. 

Tejo (pronounced tay-ho) is the national sport of Colombia. Culture Trip sources the sport’s origin to pre-Colombian times. 

Also called turmequé, tejo is almost like bags or cornhole in that you toss an object a far distance with the goal of scoring points.

However, the kicker lies in what happens when the object lands. At the other end, paper triangles are filled with gunpowder. 

By striking the paper triangles ⁠— called “mecha” ⁠— with the thrown object ⁠— a metal disc called a “tejo” ⁠— an explosion occurs.

According to CNN, tejo is a social sport that is often played while drinking in bars or the outdoors. Players can compete in teams of up to six people, or play alone.

The triangles are placed on a board packed with clay that is raised up at a 45 degree angle from the ground. 

On the board is a metal ring called a “bocín.” By landing the tejo in the ring, a player can earn six points. 

Around the ring, the paper triangles full of gunpowder are placed down. Causing a mecha to explode is worth three points.

Another point can be earned by getting your tejo the closest to the ring, Lonely Planet said.

Hitting a mecha and landing a bullseye will result in nine points, which is the maximum amount a player can earn. 

The board is placed about 20 yards away from where the throwers stand. Despite the explosive nature of the sport, injuries seem to be fairly uncommon.

“Oh tejo’s not dangerous,” a referee said in an interview with Lonely Planet. “It’s the gunpowder that’s dangerous.”

According to Culture Trip, tejo was originally played by Chibcha Indians in South America. In the pre-Colombian time period, gold discs were most likely used in place of the modern day tejos. 

Health and Fitness History said the Spanish are attributed for the inclusion of gunpowder in the game after they began gold mining in Colombia in the 1500s. 

However, CNN said it’s possible that explosions were added later in the 1950s during “La Violencia,” which was a period of conflict between two political parties.

Today, the sport is most commonly played in places called tejo halls. Many who get off a shift at work flock to the halls afterwards, seeking a beer with friends with a little friendly competition on the side.

“For many tourists, playing tejo when they come to Colombia is now part of the experience,” José Pablo Arango said in an interview with CNN. “It’s becoming more fashionable, and more cool for young people too, which makes me very happy as it is such a traditional sport.”

Fall is peak tejo season, CNN said. National tejo championships take place in October in Tumenqué.

Spierings can be reached at [email protected]