The Explosive Game You Have to Play in Bogotá
I first read about tejo — a Colombian game of gunpowder and precision — on a blog. The post had just enough information to peak my interest but not enough to figure out where to go. “It’s a game for working people,” a taxi driver in Bogotá explains, unsure why I’m even inquiring. But he knows where to take us, and a few turns later we’re inside Club de Tejo La 76.
The club is loud and electric; and filled with all kinds of people from electricians to lawyers, Colombians and foreigners. We find an empty cancha (lane) next to a birthday party and get a few pointers from the guests. “You can play as long as you’re drinking,” the ladies note, signaling to their case of beer under the bench. The rules are easy to pick up, toss a disc towards a box and aim for the ring in the center. I alternate between discs of different weight and size, and experiment with rhythm and stance until eventually I hit a mecha. It’s exhilarating, exploding the small pink packet that always seems jut out of reach. Our lane erupts into cheers and we all start to laugh, and continue to play through the afternoon. Tejo was the kind of experience I’ll never forget and could only have found in Colombia.
Photos by Erika Piñeros.
How to play
Playing tejo is fairly straightforward. Toss a metal disc (disco) towards a clay box (cancha) and aim for the metal ring (bocin) in the middle. Mechas (envelopes of gunpowder) line the bocin and explode when hit by a disco. It’s free to play at tejo clubs in Bogotá, provided you buy (and drink) a case of beer.
Where to play tejo in Bogotá
There are tejo clubs all over Bogotá. Club de Tejo La 76 (Carrera 24 #76-56) and Club de Tejo La 77 (Carrera 24 #77-40) are two local clubs that are the most popular among foreigners. The Bogotá Post has more suggestions on where to play tejo in the Colombian capital.
… And a few more tips
Tejo clubs are generally safe, provided you go in a group and play during the daytime. Avoid carrying anything of value to the club and keep an eye on group belongings while you play.
Veinte Mundos has more on the history of tejo (in Spanish) and the professional tejo circuit in Colombia.
Erika is a Colombian-Australian photographer and journalist whose work focuses on documenting social inequalities and human rights violations around the world. You can follow her journeys in Cambodia and abroad here.