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Inti Raymi, celebrating New Year the Inca way

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Every year in June, thousands of national and international visitors take to the streets of Cusco to celebrate Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun.

Held during the winter solstice to mark the Inca New Year, this nine-day celebration culminates in an epic daylong event on the 24th of June centred around a colourful performance of the ancient Inti Raymi.

After being outlawed as a pagan ceremony by the Spanish authorities in 1572, it was not until 1944 that Faustino Espinoza Navarro made a historical reconstruction of the festival. The event has grown in size and popularity since then to become one of the largest and most important celebrations in South America.

On the main day of the celebration, hundreds of actors reenact the rituals of Inti Raymi at Cusco’s Qorikancha Square. King Sapa Inca and his wife, Mama Ocllo deliver a traditional oration in praise of the sun after which he’s carried upon his massive throne in a royal procession to the ancient fortress of Sacsayhuaman, weaving through streets filled with music, dancing, prayers, and scattered flowers.

After Sapa Inca delivers another oration, a white llama is sacrificed to honour Pachamama (Mother Earth) in order to guarantee a plentiful harvest - though nowadays no animal is actually harmed in this ritual! At sunset, bonfires spark up and a dance ritual is performed to honour Tawantinsuyo - the Inca Empire.

Finally, the procession ends making its long march back to Cuzco with the King and Queen held high atop their thrones.

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Criticised by some for its theatricality, the event nonetheless enacts traditions dating back 500 years to the Incan empire’s apogee and highlights the magic and mythology surrounding today’s Peruvian culture.

Although known under its Quechua name of Inti Raymi, this is actually a common festival for many pre-Hispanic peoples of the Andes. This year, officials have announced changes to the event, inviting communities from Ecuador, Bolivia, and Argentina in order to grow the festival.

There is even discussion of modifying the dialogue, up to and including having English narration, to make the event more universal.

The popularity of the ceremony means that it gets crowded so for the best views, comfort and up-close enjoyment, tickets for the main show in Sacsayhuaman are the best option. Tickets are available online at intiraymiperu.com and emufec.gob.pe  If you are already in Cusco you can also go in person to the EMUFEC office (Calle Santa Teresa 142).

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The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

The Pothole is Pura Aventura's popular monthly email. We share what we love, what interests us and what we find challenging. And we don't Photoshop out the bits everyone else does. We like to think our considered opinions provide food for thought, and will sometimes put a smile on your face. They've even been known to make people cry. You can click here to subscribe and, naturally, unsubscribe at any time.

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