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A beer and a blast make tejo memorable

When you hear small explosions as you get out of a taxi in front of a bar in a working-class Bogotá neighborhood, you know you are in the right place.

This is one reason you came here to see the game of tejo. Where liquor and gunpowder intersect, it can only be explosive – think bowling on steroids. It’s a rural bar game that has taken hold in the cities.

My taxista friend brought me here after saying the first bar I suggested was too dangerous. There are three courts about 20 yards long with a board, about 3-feet by 4-feet at each end filled with a mudlike substance. Some very bleary-eyed players drinking Aquila (Eagle) beer were well into their games in mid-afternoon.

Players, using a 3- or 4-pound weight, also called a tejo, take turns tossing the weights underhand from one end of the court to the next, before reversing ends. The tejo flies through the air, with spectators sitting along side drinking their beers seemingly oblivious to the weights flying by.

It hits the board with a thud but if the player hits the center, marked off by small, pink triangles, it strikes a gunpowder-filled paper called a mecha and boom, small flames shoot up.

The courts were all reserved but friendly players let this visiting journalist hurl a couple of tejos. The second toss just missed an explosion and it was shots of aguardiente (sugar cane liquor) all around.


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