It was pure coincidence that we booked our Salkantay trek and subsequent visit to Machu Picchu one day prior to the annual Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) celebration in Cusco. However, the experience of observing the festival, as well as the tens of thousands of Peruvians who journeyed to Cusco to partake in the festival, was a great opportunity to learn more about Inca culture and religion.
LONG DAYS OF DANCING PARADES
From the morning we arrived in Cusco, the streets were overflowing with eager participants. We were told later approximately 30,000 Peruvians had ventured to Cusco to participate in the festivities this year. And you could feel excitement in the air and throughout the streets.
By day, people descended on the Plaza de Armas to watch the nonstop parade featuring colorfully adorned dance troops. By night, we witnessed people congregating in smaller plazas and parks, enjoying a beer and a light barbecued snack from enterprising street vendors. Even blocks away at our hostel or local eatery, the festivities were broadcast on television for all to enjoy.
ORIGINS OF INTI RAYMI
The Inti Raymi was a religious ceremony of the Incas held during winter solstice in celebration of the sun god Inti. It was a way for the Incas to celebrate the new year in the Andes and offer sacrifices to the Pachamama (mother earth) to ensure a good harvest. Originally it was a 9-day long celebration including colorful dress, dancing, processionals and sacrificial offerings. The first Inti Raymi took place in 1412; it was later banned in 1535 by the Spanish and Catholic priests only to be brought back again in 1944 as a historical reconstruction and reenactment. The celebrations and recreations have been celebrated every year since.
JUNE 24 INTI RAYMI RE-ENACTMENT
Today, Inti Raymi remains one of the most important celebrations and ceremonies held in Cusco every year on June 24. The culmination of the festivities is a day-long, 3-part reenactment of the Inti Raymi religious ceremony. We had the opportunity to witness the second of the three parts held in Cusco’s Plaza de Armas.