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Manhood Races


Animal Sacrifices

Several sacrifices are made by lines of priests who:
  • Break a falcon's neck to grant strength
  • Drive a needle through the back of a vicuna's head to grant speed
  • Strangle a fox to grant cunning
  • Crush a hummingbird's skull to grant focus
  • Decapitate a serpent to grant fertility
  • Cut a toad in half to grant luck


The race is long. It starts at the top of Huanacauri and tends downhill across a rolling plain, where loose piles of rock can tumble from a llama corral, and then up to the base of sacsahuaman hill. Afterwhich, the racers bathe in sacred waters to clean away the sweat and dust.

Components and tools


The emperor and his court have special seats carved into the mountainside to observe and cheer on the racers.  


Every participant are given breechcloths as prizes at the end, with the ten fastest donning white ones and ten slowest being marked in black.



The red fringe leads the graduating class to the windy top of Huanacauri hill and later pierce the lobes of the fastest boys.

Sapa Heir

The yellow fringe gives a short speech to encourage the racers and invokes the sun god's blessings.

Boy Graduates

On the day of the race, racers wake up together, having slept in the field where the race would start, to sing to the rising sun and practice skirmishing.


At the end of the race, girls of the runners' own ages and lines of chosen women wait for the competitors to hand out maize beer.


The footrace takes place before the formal manhood ceremonies. It is but one part of the performance rituals and after-class duties that lasts for more than a month; and involves making their parents comfortable, and themselves uncomfortable.

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Cover image: Parapanamericanos by Freddy Durand C


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