Published on June 24th, 201428
Inti Raymi – Festival of the Sun
Goodness – 4 whole months now in my new Ecuadorian home, yet…
What with settling in here at 8,000+ feet in Cuenca, diligently expanding my rusty Spanish, exploring my new neighborhood in El Centro (did-I-mention, a UNESCO World Heritage site?), and getting serious about securing a long-term residency visa (no small chore, in both time and dinero)…
Not to mention the fact that – in retrospect – I’d all but worn my wanderlust thin skipping all over Asia (including Vietnam, Cambodia, Sumatra, Thailand, Mongolia, Laos, Singapore, Australia, Nepal, Malaysian Borneo and Myanmar – the latter two I’ve yet to share my gazillion pics and tales of Pygmy elephants, organgatans, gambling in the streets of Yangon, the 3,000 temples at Bagan, etc., etc., etc.), which…
Has all but made me inert here, and reveling in the joys of simply STANDING.STILL for a change.
All which is to say – I’ve been uncharacteristically stationary these past few months, but I’m now itchin’ to at least explore a bit further afield than the cobbled streets of Cuenca.
And in that spirit, the annual June 21st solstice has always held a soft spot in my heart no matter where I roam. So when I heard about the Inti Raymi festival taking place at the Ingapirca Inca ruins just a couple hours drive north of Cuenca – I was eager to see what the “Festival of the Sun” was all about.
In the U.S. of course, the Summer Solstice marks the longest day of the year (yay!), but interestingly…
Living here “downunder” (beneath the Equator), I’m still getting used to reverse seasons (even if I am perched on the top of a mountain, where the temps remain fairly constant, between 50F – 70F year ’round). And come to find out (well duh!) the June 21st solstice here is actually the SHORTEST* day of the year and thus the start of WINTER!
(*Note: “shortest” in this case is negligible as the length of day at the Equator varies little more than a few minutes year round.)
Winter/Summer no matter – a visit to the annual Inti Raymi Festival of the Sun seemed the perfect way to gingerly hop back on the trail again (if only for a day excursion) and begin to explore my Andean surroundings.
I opted to head out by private van with a bilingual Ecuadorian lad by the name of Carlos Ortega. With two vans of expats plus a handful of traditionally attired (complete with walking sticks festooned with peacock feathers) indigenous folk, the cost for the day was just $20 pp. Once beyond the sprawling red-tiled roofs of Cuenca, we wended our way through hairpin mountain turns, gawking at the rolling valleys dotted with lamas and quaint red-roofed casitas.
Arriving in Ingapirca, the food vendors were already setting up tents and grilling whole splayed pigs for the traditional “hornado” (roast pig). And soon we had entry tickets ($2 with a cedula – which I hope to have in a week or two, else $6, else half price $3 for dodderin’ folks like me) plus an English-speaking guide to take us through the ruins to the sun temple.
The weather was clear and sunny, the setting idyllic, and the ruins most fascinating. It was truly amazing to see the precisely chiseled stonework – the hallmark of the Incas – each stone snug against the next, with no mortar and barely a hair’s space between the seams.
Check out a bit of history of the Festival of the Sun, along with an assortment of pics I snapped in the slideshow below:
|Inti Rami – Festival of the Sun|
|Inti Rami or “Festival of the Sun”, falls on June 21 or 22, the date of the southern hemisphere’s winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Indigenous communities throughout the Andean highland countries of South America celebrate the winter solstice with ceremonies designed to bring the Sun back and shorten the longest nights. Incan in origin, Inti Raymi honored the sun as the source of light, heat, and life, and celebrated the start of a new planting season. The name Inti Raymi comes from the Quechua language: Inti means “sun” and raymi means “festival”.
The last Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor’s presence was carried out in 1535, after which the Spanish and the Catholic priests banned the celebrations because they were pagan and contrary to the Catholic faith. As conversions of the native people to Christianity began, the ceremonies were kept hidden, but did not end entirely. The Spanish, realizing the risks and futility in trying to completely remove a religious celebration, moved it a few days later to match the date of their Catholic feast of St. John the Baptist. This gave them an excuse to allow the celebrations to continue as well as helping to indoctrinate the Incas to the ways of Christianity. Thus Inti Raymi survived in the form of the San Juan festival.
In the southern region, at Ecuador’s largest Inca site, Ingapirca, Inti Raymi mixes Inca traditions and the local Canari culture. The Taita Roque Ochoa, a character dressed all in white, representing peace, gives offerings to mother earth. This is followed by traditional dancing and feasting.
Inti Raymi is second only to Carnival in size and importance in South America, and while it is celebrated in a variety of ways, it is always a celebration of the relationship between the sun, earth, seasons and the people of the Incas.
celebrate the Solstice where you live?