Inti Raymi: June 24, 2010

 Posted by Michael Broder at 5:24 am  Peru
Jun 282010

June 24, 2010: Inti Raymi

Thursday was the Incan festival celebrating the winter solstice, also known as Inti Raymi. Emily, Kat, and I woke up early to witness all of the festivities of the day, and we took a cab as close as we could get to Coricancha, the site of the initial celebration. Coricancha is an ancient Inca temple right across the street from the Maximo Nivel office. When we arrived there, people dressed in traditional Incan dress were singing, playing cool instruments, and of course dancing. In front of the temple is a huge field where allof the ceremonious singing and dancing was taking place. Surrounding the field were thousands of spectators both gringo tourists and Cusquenas. I filmed that first part of the festival on my video camera as well as the other two parts that happened later. At Coricancha we met a really nice girl Tigon who is from the USA and saw that we were gringos and thus asked to Inti Raymi it up with us. After the celebration at Coricancha finished everyone and I mean EVERYONE at once migrated to La Plaza de Armas to watch the second Inti Raymi show.

It was so packed in the square and it seemed like an hour before all of the natives involved in the festivities started dancing. Before we knew it the entire square was filled with mock Incans dancing in unison to the beat of a drum and other flute-like music. Scared of having my bag and my camera jacked by the many pickpocketers that pour into Cuzco for Inti Raymi, I held my bag tight to my chest all day out of paranoia. A little bit after all of the traditional dancers came out into the square, the king Inca came out on a thrown carried by about twenty men dressed in red and took his place atop the structure built especially for Inti Raymi over the fountain at the center of the plaza. He then raised his hands to the sky as the music played louder as if he were praying to the gods, and then he began speaking Quechuan, the native language of the Incas, with power and ease. Of course I did not understand a single thing he said, but I thought it was so cool to watch this whole traditional ceremony take place. Emily, Kat, and I all agreed that it stinks that America has no awesome traditions that every single person celebrates like the Peruvians do with Inti Raymi.

At about noon we were all starving because the few pieces of bread we eat for breakfast every day do not really fill us up but for ten minutes. We pushed through the crowd and started walking up the steep cobblestone streets towards Sacsayhuaman, where the final ceremonies would take place, to find a place to eat lunch. We stumbled upon this seemingly legit little restaurant with a pretty comprehensive menu. Emily and Tigon ordered pizza, and I ordered pasta bolognese. We thought those were pretty simple food choices, but within a few minutes the waiter returned to let us know that they could not make pizza or spaghetti. After that shocking news, I ordered some exotic and delicious fried dough covered in chocolate which apparently had no milk in it. Lunch was quite an experience, and afterwards we started the real trek towards the ruins at Sacsayhuaman up very steep inclines. Because of the lack of oxygen in this country, it was quite a struggle to walk up a street that probably would not have given me any trouble back in the states. Finally,we made it half way and found hundreds of little street vendors selling the usual alpaca gear, and for the first time I saw a whole roasted cuy or guinea pig. It looked like a giant rat/ rodent. NASTY! I still have to try one before I leave this place.

After climbing up more stairs and roads we made it to the amazing ruins. They were so large and well maintained that they almost looked fake. The views of Cuzco from the hill where Sacsayhuaman is located are just ridiculous. I took many pictures that are unbelieveable. Looking down over the large field in front of the ruins where the ceremony was to take place were probably ten thousand people or more. The hill everyone was standing on and watching from was so crazy and packed that it was literally impossible to find a place to watch the final events of the day from. Legend has it that at the end of the festival of Inti Raymi a llama is sacrificed. Now many people said that it was a fake llama, but I think the final verdict declared that it was indeed a real sacrifice. I wanted to see this event unfold so badly but it did not happen in the two hours we were there. Emily, Kat, and Tigon were so bored that they drew tattoos on each others arms with Emilys sharpies, and ultimately transformed the white tee I was wearing into an Inti Raymi 2010 shirt complete with Incan decorations and, of course, a llama. We left without being able to see the llama murder, but I heard from others that they killed it a little bit after we left and tore out its heart.

Inti Raymi was such an awesome day that I will never forget. Although it was exhausting, it was quite the adventure. Maybe in the future I will get to see the llama sacrifice.


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