Inti Raymi: Cusco’s biggest festival

Reposted as it’s soon!

Each year on June 24th (which coincides with the winter solstice in South America) there is a festival to honor the Inca god Inti. The Festival also celebrates the coming New Year.

The celebration began in 1412, but was banned after 1535 by Catholic Clergy. It was then preserved secretly for many years, and recreated publicly again in 1944.

From Peru This Week:

The festivals that fill Cusco’s cultural calendar honor a unique blend of Andean and Catholic traditions. Every June 24th, the city stages Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, and thousands of Peruvians and visitors take to the city streets for dancing, music, and colorful cultural reenactments.

Inti Raymi is a religious celebration that pays homage to Inti, the Inca Sun deity. Held during the winter solstice when the sun is furthest from Earth (in the southern hemisphere), the celebration is a plea for Inti to return to his Inca sons, as their crops would receive no nourishment without the life-giving energy of the sun. Today’s Inti Raymi celebration honors a new cycle of life, just like the ancient festival upon which it is modeled.

During the Spanish conquest Inti Raymi was banned by authorities because of its pagan nature, and the festival went underground, much like many of the Inca structures buried beneath the monuments and cathedrals built by the Spanish. But in 1944, Inti Raymi rose once again with a reenactment of the festival performed by local Cusqueño actors. The event has grown in size and popularity since then to become one of the largest and most important celebrations in the region.

The contemporary rehearsal of Inti Raymi is more accurately an interpretation of what occurred during Inca times. It has been pieced carefully together from chronicles of the conquest and Quechua oral histories. The Inca, without a writing system, left no formal documentation of the event.

Today, thousands of national and international visitors come to Cusco for the feast, setting Cusco’s city streets abuzz with fairs, concerts and exhibitions, in the days leading up to and following the main Inti Raymi festival (held every June 24th). Over 500 actors – organized by university, professional, and neighborhood affiliation – start practicing a script and their dance moves months in advance. The grand Inti Raymi procession is quite the affair! Everyone enjoys the merriment of the occasion as actors wearing lavish costumes take part in historical recreations while onlookers watch in delight.

On the day of Inti Raymi, the main procession kicks off around 10 a.m. in front of Qorikancha, the Temple of the Sun. Inti Raymi participants wearing traditional costumes – representative of the four corners of the Inca Empire – make their grand entrance as the opening ceremony unfolds. Those with event tickets watch from their seats while others find spots from outside to see at a further distance.

From Qorikancha, the grand procession continues to the Plaza de Armas and up towards Sacsayhuaman, a massive Inca fortress on the outskirts of Cusco. During this time, the Inca King and Queen are carried through the city streets on ornate thrones while dancers and live music entertain large crowds of onlookers. The main ceremony takes place in Sacsayhuaman where the Inca pray to the spirits and offer a “sacrifice” to Pachamama, their Mother Earth, in order to guarantee a plentiful harvest.

via Inti Raymi: Cusco’s biggest festival honoring the Inca Sun God – Peru this Week.

When visiting Cuzco, remember that it is over 11,000 feet in altitude. Give yourself a few days to acclimate, and those susceptible to altitude sickness should be advised. One good way to ease into the altitude and to visit Machu Picchu is to immediately take transportation lower into the Sacred Valley towards Machu Picchu. While still quite high itself at 7,970 feet, Machu Picchu is an easier place to make the adjustment. After a few days the altitude of Cuzco will be somewhat easier to handle. Enjoy!

©2015 Ben Gangloff

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