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Thursday, January 27th 2022

What Are Toques in Bars?

Written by

Rafael Bracho

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Introduction: What Are Toques in Bars?

If you’ve been in bars in Mexico City, you may have seen people walking around, clinking two metal handles together. That’s a toques machine (toques meaning “touches” in Spanish), and this curious device has become a staple drinking game among younger Mexicans.

A bar that could be in Mexico City with a toque machine on the counter

It’s more of a dare really. Basically, it’s a small battery that has two metal handles attached to it, the purpose being to mildly electrify those foolish and curious enough to try it. Yes, you read that right. People actually pay to be shocked.

The goal is to test one’s bravado by seeing how long one can hold onto the handles as the voltage is slowly increased.

What is a Máquina de Toques? What Are Toques in Bars?

At this point, you might be wondering, What exactly is this toques device? Well, it’s called a máquina de toques (Spanish for “touches machine”), and it’s generally a small battery with a transistor to channel the electric current. A rotary knob is often attached to the máquina, which controls the voltage levels in the device. Generally, the maximum voltage is 120 volts, though few people last at that level.

There are YouTube videos like this one that demonstrate how to make a simple toques machine at home. We don’t recommend doing this; however, these videos are a great way to understand the basics of how the shocking device works.

How Does A Máquina de Toques Work? What Are Toques in Bars?

Once current is running through the two metal handles, then you just need to connect the positive and negative handles to complete the circuit. This will send a shock through the body as the electric current passes through.

Josue enjoys drinking and the toque machine

How Much Does it Cost to Try Toques in Bars? What Are Toques?

The price obviously depends on the toques operator, but it’s usually about $20 MXN ($1 USD) to test your strength. However, if you use it with a group of people, you should expect to pay more.

People offering toques in bars are often just trying to make ends meet while offering a fun service for their customers. Tipping them a little extra is always a good idea.

*If you’re interested in reading our guide to tipping in Mexico, click here.

How Do You Play the Game? What Are Toques?

You can play the game by yourself or with other people, but the main objective is the same: just see how long you can hold on!

  • Toques By Yourself

You can test your strength at toques by yourself. You just have to hold onto both handles, thus completing the circuit within your body, and then just see how long you can hang on until you can’t take anymore.

  • Toques with A Partner

Traditionally, however, toques are done with two people or more. This turns the game into a competition to see if you can handle more voltage than your opponent. One person grasps the negative handle, while the other grabs the positive handle. Then they hold each other’s hands, thus completing the circuit until one contender gives up. Usually, the loser owes the winner a drink.

  • Toques in A Group

You can play at toques in a group as well. All the contenders stand in a circle. The people at the ends grab the handles, and then everyone in the circle holds hands, thus completing the circuit. The first person to let go loses.

What to Expect When You Play at Toques? What Are Toques?

The first rule of thumb is this: the drunker you are, the more voltage you can likely withstand. However, there are basic symptoms that you can expect at different levels of voltage.

  • At 20 Volts

At 20 volts, you’ll feel a tingling sensation in your limbs—especially in your hands where you’re grasping the electric handles.

  • At 60 Volts

As the knob is turned up, this tingling will become less tolerable. You will likely feel a change in your heart rate. Once you reach 60 volts, you can expect to feel the muscles in your arms cramping. This can be rather unpleasant.

  • At 80 Volts

Once you reach 80 volts, you lose the ability to control your muscles. Thus, you can no longer willingly let go of the handles. The way to end it is to call out “Ya!”, which signals to the toques operator that you’ve had enough.

*To learn more, click here.

A science experiment gone wrong and exposes the tester to an electric jolt

Are Toques Safe? What Are Toques?

For the most part, toques are seen as a safe game to play. However, if you have a heart condition or a pacemaker, you should not play at toques.

Furthermore, some physicians condemn the practice. Shocking the human body with electricity can be dangerous in large quantities. The following is what happens when the human body is electrified:

When the muscles can no longer let go of the handles themselves, this is because of the methanization of one’s muscles. The muscles tense, causing them to be stuck in place unable to break free. You can also experience burns on the skin in contact with the electric conductor.

At higher voltage levels, one can go into a respiratory arrest when electricity flows through the respiratory nerve. After this, paralysis can occur. Asphyxiation can also occur when current flows through the chest because the methanization of the muscles mentioned above can leave the diaphragm incapable of drawing breath.

The same muscular disruption can happen to your heart. The increase in one’s heart rate is known as ventricular fibrillation, and it can get so strong that your heart is no longer pumping blood.

We should mention that this is unlikely to happen at 120 volts. However, nothing is guaranteed. You run the risk of serious consequences. Furthermore, these machines are not standardized. They are just homemade devices. If something is wrong with the voltage regulator, it could be dangerous.

From a medical perspective, the following occurs at different voltage levels:

  • Under 3 volts, there is no risk. The shock is virtually undetectable.
  • Between 5 and 10 volts, you might feel involuntary muscle spasms, and there will be slight changes to the respiratory system.
  • Between 10 and 15 volts, you can expect the methanization of muscles, leading to spasms in the muscles that can even become permanent.
  • From 15 to 30 volts, muscle spasms can spread to the chest. These spams can also become permanent leading to arrhythmia.
  • Over 30 volts, you run the risk of ventricular fibrillation.

*For more information, click here.

Conclusion: What Are Toques?

At Expat Insurance, we work in the health industry. We would not recommend that anyone try toques in bars in Mexico. All human bodies are different, and there’s no way to tell how your body will react.

If you’re looking to test your strength, arm wrestling is likely a safer option.

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