A friend of mine had some family visiting last week. Family visiting is always good because it motivates you to explore the area where you are living, where you might not actually be exploring fully! I have had the benefit of several visitors that I’ve taken around, but we never took them to Tejo. Thankfully my friend invited us to an evening of the game with her family so now I can share all the fun with you.
Tejo is described as the national game of Colombia. But every Colombian I talked to had; 1) never heard of it or; 2) heard of it but only vaguely and definitely; 3) never played it before. Honestly I have not met one single Colombian who has ever played it. But that does not deter us! Allow me to lead the way, Colombian friends!
Tejo can be described as a combination of cornhole with rocks, with elements of darts and the addition of fireworks. The “rock” comes in various sizes and weights (you can grab the one that is right for you) and is actually made of some sort of cast metal. It has slightly sloped sides and a flat top and bottom. Surprisingly, it’s a game you usually do while drinking shots of rum or any alcohol really. Because throwing rocks at fireworks around a bunch of wandering people is a great idea when coupled with alcohol. #donttrythisathome
Tejo is played in a specialized court. It’s a cross between a bowling lane and a tennis court. The surface is concrete, it’s a long lane and at the end is a raised and inclined pit filled with mud where you throw your disc-shaped rock into. The goal is to try and throw your rock to hit the very center of the mud. But all around that center are triangle shaped pieces of folded paper filled with explosives. So if you miss the center a little and hit the triangle shaped explosive… well, you’ll know it. You are in teams and your team gets points for whoever gets closest, or additional points if you hit the center, or additional-but-not-as-many points if you hit the fireworks. Of course, fireworks is the goal for everyone. Because when you’re playing with kids, and even adults, who doesn’t love making stuff blow up!
This is a kid-friendly game but I would say the minimum age is about 10. You’ll need a kid who pays close attention, does not wander into neighboring lanes where heavy rocks are being thrown, and who doesn’t mind hearing a very loud explosion every 5 minutes or so. We had all of that so we were able to split off so the kids played against each other and the adults played against each other.
The group of backpackers who were playing – and drinking – next to us was doing a much better job of hitting the fireworks. Even the kid group, led by the one Colombian in the group, Zoe’s friend Fiorella, were getting more fireworks to pop. Finally our adult group managed to get a few explosions. Yay us!
After the game we discovered that it originated with the local peoples and was originally played with a gold disk and a gold center plate. The winner got to keep the gold. But when the Spaniards came they seized all the gold. So there was no gold to play Tejo with any longer. But they liked the game so much that they decided to change it by adding some gunpowder to the rules. Not a fair trade, but it does add to the excitement. The game is much more popular in other areas of Colombia where they have courts and tournaments. Medellin has only one court in the whole city – tucked behind the soccer stadium like a red-headed stepchild. So that kind of explains why no one I talked to has ever played it.
If anyone is interested in organizing a game, here is Chris’ contact info here in Medellin.
This is the kids’ team, led by Zoe’s friend Fiorella hitting one of the explosive triangles.
Here’s a video we took of some other throwers in action, including Haley and our neighbor, Scott.