A Guide to the Culture and Traditions of the Andean Communities of Peru
Fiestas & Festivals > Inti Raymi (Cusco)
(The Festival of the
Sun- Sacsayhuaman, Cusco, 24 June)
The 'Sun Festival' of June 24th is the Big One for tourists. In 1944 a group of Cusco intellects, inspired by the current 'indigenist' movement, decided to revive the Inca festival of the June Winter solstice, reconstructing it from descriptions in the chronicles of the Spanish Conquest. They staged it at the massive ruins of Sacsayhuaman, above the city, and where it has been held every year barring the earthquake year of 1950.
This event is really more a pageant than a fiesta, with hundreds of locals playing the parts of Inca priests, nobles, virgins of the sun and soldiers. The coveted role of the Inca Pachacuti is awarded following lengthy auditions.
The event begins at about 10.00 in the morning at the Koricancha, or Temple of the Sun, and winds its way up Avenida del Sol to the Plaza de Armas, before climbing the back streets to arrive at the ruins of Sacsayhauman at about 14.00. Thousands of people are gathered to watch the arrival of the Inca and his Coya (queen). Men sweep the ground before him, and women scatter flowers. The Inca takes centre stage and talks to the Sun, the principle object on Inca worship and from whom the Incas claimed direct descendency. He then receives reports from the governors of the four Suyus (regions) of the Inca empire. The Inca re-lights the sacred fire of the empire, drinks some chicha and sacrifices a llama by pulling out its beating heart and holding it up in reverence to the Sun. (all faked but very realistic). The success of the coming years activities, such as harvests or battles, are then read in the entrails of the llama.
Finally the ritual eating of Sankhu (corn paste mixed with the llamas blood) ends the ceremonies. The Inca makes a last address to his people and then departs. Music and dancing continue throughout the evening.
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