Cusco Day/Inti Raymi – Day 144

Sun 24th Jun

Since rainbow mountain I’ve not done a lot. Chilled with V, Juliana and Gerardo in town

met Lee from Montañita for dinner and done a bit of Xmas shopping!

My original plan was to leave on the 22nd June but with Cusco Day being on the 24th, loads of people said I should stay. With friends still in town too I decided to do so.

Plans change a bit for today with times of the parade getting mixed up. Most of us meet in the a packed Plaza de Armas at 10am. V hit there early and secured us a good spot – until the hoards come in and start standing in our way. We’re stood by a photographer woman who is very friendly and blocks people cutting through us – very nice lady.

Every year on the 24th of June Cusco celebrates the festival of Inti Raymi. This festival was celebrated by the Incas as the Festival of the Sun where the God of the Sun (Inti) is honored. The Inti Raymi symbolizes the eternal consecration of marriage between the Sun and his sons, the human beings. Inti Raymi was the most important festival of the Inca empire Tawantinsuyu which based its religion on the cult of the Sun. On the 24th of June they celebrate the winter solstice, in other words the beginning of the Sun’s New Year. Scientifically the solstice begins on the 21st of June, but according to the Pacha Unachaq, a sundial used by the Incas, the sun stays some days in the same place before rising on the 24th of June. This day was proclaimed by the high priest as the New Year: Inti Raymi!

The Inti Raymi was prohibited by the Spanish during the first years of the conquest claiming that it was a pagan ceremony and not in compliance with the catholic religion

On the main day, June 24th, the Sapa Inca would step on a stage in front of the pilgrims and drink chicha de jora, a maize based drink, in honor of Inti.

In 1944 the American Institute of Art in Cusco approved the celebration and Faustino Espinoza Navarro and a group of Amerindian actors reconstructed a theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi based on the chronicles of Garcilazo de la Vega. Since then, every year on June 24th residents and tourist attend the festival.

The traditional Inca ceremony took place at the time each year when the sun was farthest from the earth. Fearing the lack of sun and ensuing famine, the ancient people gathered in Cuzco to plead for the sun god’s return. The celebrants fasted for days before the event, refrained from physical pleasures, and presented gifts to the Inca, who, in return, put on a lavish banquet of meat, cornbread, chicha, and coca tea, as they prepared to sacrifice llamas to ensure good crops and fertile fields

At 1030 the procession starts here (having already started 2 hours previously in another location). The first dancers come through into the main square all in an order of hierarchy….

Unmarried women, devoted to the sun come out in a worshiping trance like state, others come out throwing out flower petals, different tribes (suyos) representing the 4 regions of the Incas come out dancing, Mama Occla comes out carried on a throne and then the Sapa Inca himself dressed in all his finery, carried on a replica gold throne.

The first and second scenes take place on the main plaza where the Sapa Inca addresses the Sun in Quechua and thanks him for all his blessings. Afterwards the Inca is carried on his throne and the procession moves five kilometers to the Sacsayhuaman.

This is a huge event to be a part of and I’m told there is about 5000 people in the main square alone. Some people we encounter are quite rude and very pushy which does result in a few harsh words with some people – one old woman in particular who was tan grosera! Whilst some were rude and bolshy, the majority of people we met were lovely and extremely helpful and informative on filling us in on what was happening.

As this part comes to an end, we make the 20 min walk up hill to Sacsayhuaman – the most important part of the day.

Here the Sapa Inca performs many rituals and sacrifices to thank the Sun for his generosity. He ascends to the sacred altar to give his speech.

He addresses the snake (for the world below), the puma (for life on earth), and the condor (for the world of the gods). A llama is sacrificed (in a very realistic stage act) and the high priest holds aloft the bloody heart in honor of Pachamama.

As the sun sets, stacks of straw are set on fire and the celebrants dance around them to honor Tawantinsuty, the Empire of the Four Wind Directions. Then, the ceremony ends with a procession back to Cuzco. Sapa Inca and Mama Occla are carried on their thrones, as the high priests and representatives pronounce blessings on the people.

Around 12000 people have descended upon sacsayhuaman and the surrounding hills. The area is packed. You can pay 150s for a seat in the arena but we and most others head up to the hillside to watch the spectacle below. There are so many people here thou and a lot so rude they won’t sit down for those behind to see, it’s very difficult to see anything and keep up with what’s going on. This is a real shame as if everyone sat, it would be an awesome thing to see and experience. More harsh words and pushing by a few which is a shame for such a special event.

We decide to wander around and grab some food as we can’t really make out much. Unlike back home at these big events, festival food and beer here is so cheap so we indulge a little. Late in the afternoon we venture over to Christo Blanco (another Jesus arms out statue) but because of the festival, access is closed.

We decide to call it a day up here and after taking in the views of Cusco below,

V, Gerardo and I head for a coffee and a natter before going home.

It was an interesting and enjoyable day but would have been better if we could see the re-enactment and had some info on what was going on. Luckily for us, people around us did fill us in on bits and then there’s the internet and sharing knowledge between us. All in all thou, I’m glad I stayed.

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