Tejo: Colombia's Explosive Pastime
Do you happen to be a fan of explosions? How about drinking? And bar games? Did you say yes to all three? Oh boy, then do I have something special for you.
Imagine a game, played in alleyways, backyards and bars across an entire country that combines the sparks of the 4 of July with the casual competition found in a local bar. This game has been around for hundreds of years and even has an official information page from the federal government. You’d surely have heard of such a thing, right? Unless you're reading this from South America, that's likely not the case. Allow me to introduce you to Tejo, Colombia’s national game which makes Cornhole look like Candyland.
The game is quite simple. A player throws a metal disk (or often a flat rock) at a board (about 3x3 feet), roughly 40 to 60 feet away from the player. The board is resting at a 45-degree angle to the ground and usually is covered in clay. On that board lies a ring or a pipe. In and around that ring are several small explosive packets. Each player on a team gets a single throw per round and the winners of the round get to throw first in the next one.
The scoring for Tejo is pretty straightforward. If your throw lands closest to the center ring, your team receives a single point. If you miss the ring and aren't closest but do manage to make one of the tiny explosives (called mecha) go off, your team gets three points. If you make it into the ring but don’t set off any mecha, that’s six points. And if your shot makes it into the ring and it makes a boom, you win nine points and the round automatically.
The exact origin of the game is in dispute but it is generally agreed upon that the indigenous population of Colombia played a game very similar before the Spanish arrived. They were the ones who added the gunpowder component during their occupation. Few games on earth can claim direct roots that lead back as far as Tejo's.
The game is adored in Colombia. Not only can you find it at pretty much any bar nationwide but there are even leagues for Tejo with prizes that are nothing to sneeze at, for the men at least. As with too many games, Tejo was only a pastime for men in Colombia. More and more, however, women are entering the Tejo scene, playing in the same public spaces as men and even taking part in Tejo leagues of their own.
Since the Colombian government declared Tejo as the official national sport in 2000, it has skyrocketed in popularity, passing all forms of competition in the country except for the king of South American sports, soccer. The game has even bled into neighboring countries such as Venezuela and Panama. You may not have heard of it before now, but be on the lookout. It’s only a matter of time before someone decides that this distinctly Latin game’s fireworks are ready for the shores of North America, and I for one, absolutely cannot wait to play. Cervezas on me.