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In Peru, the phrase ‘party un­til the sun comes up’ takes on a whole new mean­ing in June as the fes­ti­val of Inti Raymi shines a light on Inca cul­ture

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

Inti Raymi Here comes the sun… fes­ti­val – it’s time to party in Peru

To­day, the term ‘sun­wor­ship­per’ tends to con­jure images of lo­tion, deckchairs and Mediter­ranean sands. For the Inca, how­ever, it was a part of life, find­ing its purest expression in the Inti Raymi fes­ti­val, which hon­oured the god Inti (Quechuan for ‘sun’) in cel­e­bra­tions held ev­ery win­ter sol­stice in Cusco. By the mid-1500s, though, the Span­ish had cur­tailed the fes­ti­val (and later the en­tire em­pire), only for it to be res­ur­rected 74 years ago. It’s been a fix­ture for Peru-bound trav­ellers ever since.

Tell me more…

It was a big event, even by to­day’s stan­dards, with more than 25,000 rulers, wor­ship­pers, no­ble­men and priests ar­riv­ing for a nine-day cel­e­bra­tion. Pil­grims fasted for the three days prior to the fes­ti­val, which be­gan in earnest with a pa­rade of cloth-bound an­ces­tral mum­mies from Qorikan­cha (Tem­ple of the Sun) to Cusco’s Plaza de Ar­mas – still the city’s main square to­day – and on to the fortress of Sac­say­hua­man. There­after, it was a feast for the senses: coca leaves were burnt, dancers ca­vorted and peo­ple gulped down chicha de jora (maize beer). It was a ner­vous pe­riod for lla­mas, though, with over 200 sac­ri­ficed and their or­gans used to make pre­dic­tions.

And the ‘new’ ver­sion?

Inti Raymi was out­lawed by the Span­ish af­ter 1535, who deemed it a pa­gan rite, although clan­des­tine ver­sions con­tin­ued. It was later re­vived as a con­densed one-day event in 1944, knit­ting to­gether his­tor­i­cal ac­counts, ar­chae­o­log­i­cal finds and the modern rit­u­als of in­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties (who per­form as ac­tors) to make for an au­then­tic replica. On 24 June ev­ery year it traces the route from Cusco to Sac­say­huamán, com­plete with ‘Inca ruler’ car­ried on a golden throne. Vis­i­tors can fol­low the pa­rade and gather on hills above the fortress, witnessing rit­u­als and ‘sac­ri­fices’. Sadly, the lla­mas don’t es­cape un­scathed, but just a sin­gle an­i­mal is sac­ri­ficed these days.

Can I see it else­where?

Wher­ever the Quechuan peo­ple set­tled, Inti Raymi fol­lowed. In Bo­livia, wor­ship­pers head to the pre-columbian site of Ti­wanaku, on the plains out­side La Paz, and in Ecuador they ‘pu­rify’ them­selves in the wa­ters of the An­des – moun­tain com­mu­ni­ties, such as Otavalo, can cel­e­brate for up to a month. It has even spread as far as San Fran­cisco and Madrid. Af­ter all, you can’t keep a good party quiet.

All to­gether now Peru’s Inti Raymi fes­ti­val was res­cued from the back­wa­ters of his­tory, af­ter the Span­ish had banned it in the 1500s

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