Tejo: Colombia’s National Sport

Ever heard of tejo? I didn’t think so.

Drinking beer and blowing up little packets of gunpowder. Could you ask for a better night, playing the local national sport?

I’m sure you could just show up and pay a minimal amount to toss the tejo (a not-too-light/not-too-heavy piece of steel) onto a mecha (a packet of gunpowder), but I was happy to support the local Gringo tejo player (the only one – well, competitive, at least – in all of Colombia) in his little business. Three beer, a lesson, and good company for a few dollars. I don’t usually spend my money on touristy things that can be done for cheaper (or free), but this was worth it.

You hold the tejo in the palm of your hand, with your thumb on top and fingers barely gripping at the front. Then you swing back, step forward, and and let it go. The weird thing is, you step forward with the foot that’s on the same side as your tossing arm. So, if you’re tossing with your right-hand, you’re stepping with your right foot. If you’ve ever done any sport that involves some sort of underhand throw/roll, this seems crazy weird. As a windmill pitcher and casual bowler, it was definitely hard to wrap my head around. But it wasn’t so tough in the end.

Every time a packet exploded, we all erupted in a chorus of screams and cheers (after a few startled jumps of shock). The excitement of the explosion, a small burst of fire, and the lingering smoke was definitely the reason people enjoy this for fun (I’m sure the pros have deeper motivations, though). I think I landed my tejo on a mecha three separate times! Each time, I prepared myself for the excitement of the explosion…. but it never came 😦  I’m guessing a higher throw (so it landed directly on the packet) would have been better… but what a disappointment! No worries, though: After the game was over, we took some extra practice throws from closer and I got a real good explosion! Yay!

Watch one of my failed attempts to get a better idea of the game.

Now you wanna come to Colombia, right? Yeah, I thought so!

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