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Peru: Celebrating June 24 – San Juan and Inti Raymi

June 24 is a very special date in many parts of the world, because in addition to being the longest day of the year, it coincides with the summer solstice (which is why it is the longest day of the year). From the wikipedia entry on the solstice:

A solstice occurs twice a year, whenever Earth's axis tilts the most toward or away from the Sun, causing the Sun to be farthest north or south at noon. The name is derived from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still), because at the solstice, the Sun stands still in declination, that is, its movement north or south is minimal. The term solstice can also be used in a wider sense as the date (day) that such a passage happens.

In the Southern hemisphere, there is a variety of ways to celebrate the winter solstice (at least in Lima, where it is really cold). The most well-known of the celebrations is the Feast of San Juan (St. John), which has been passed down from Spanish traditions. There are a great number of cities and towns that have been named San Juan or that has San Juan as its patron saint, such in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina, Panama, and Mexico.

In Peru, San Juan is the patron saint of the Peruvian Amazon and this is the traditional feast date in the jungle. The most well-known and major feast is celebrated in the warm city of Iquitos [ES], but there are also very lively celebrations in Pucallpa, Tarapoto, Tingo Maria and other cities in the jungle region. Even in Lima, there is a community with its origins from the Amazon and they have started their own celebration of this “charapa” feast. It is assumed that there are religious origins, but that has been put aside. The residents and visitors of this area take part in large parties with food and drink.

However, without a doubt, the feast that is most well-known around the world and is celebrated on June 24 is Inti Raymi. This is an Incan celebration that draws thousands of tourists from around the world and where many Cuzco residents actively participate. From the Wikipedia entry:

The Inti Raymi (“Festival of the Sun”) was a religious ceremony of the Inca Empire in honor of the god Inti. It also marked the winter solstice and a new year in the Andes of the Southern Hemisphere. Since 1944, a theatrical representation of the Inti Raymi has been taking place at Sacsayhuamán (two km. from Cusco) on June 24 of each year, attracting thousands of tourists and local visitors.

Every year, thousands of tourists from around the world arrive to attend the ceremonias. This year, the famous actress Cameron Diaz is already in Cuzco for this purpose. The blog Destino Turistico [ES] notes that the spectator area has been moved. In his post “Stage and Stands are Moved in order to Protect the Archeological Areas of Sacsayhuamán”:

El Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INC) de Cusco dispuso la reubicación del escenario y tribunas de Inti Raymi o Fiesta del Sol 2007 a la zona norte de la explanada de Sacsayhuamán a fin de proteger las áreas arqueológicas de este histórico lugar. Asimismo, se dispuso el traslado de la ubicación para el público que no paga o que no hace uso de las tribunas para turistas al lado noreste de Chukipampa y al sector denominado La Cruz. Estos espacios estarán protegidos, señalizados y acordonados y, además, contarán con vías de acceso y salida señalizadas y rampas. De esta manera, la zona de arqueológica de Suchuna, lugar donde en anteriores años se ubicaba el citado público que no paga, será protegida, pues se trata de una zona muy delicada.

The National Institute of Culture of Cuzco decided to relocate the stage and stands of Inti Raymi or Sun Festival of 2007 to the level ground on the north end of Sacsayhuamán in order to protect this historical site. It was also decided to move the location for the non-paying public or those that do not use the tourist stands located on the northeastern part of Chukipamapa in the area called “La Cruz.” These areas are protected, marked and cordoned off, and also contained marked entrances and exits, as well as ramps. This say, the archeological zone of Suchuna, where the non-paying public previously sat, will now be protected because this is a very fragile area.

What is Inti Raymi? It is a ceremony in honor of the Sun, father of the Inca. In brief, there is a recreation that begins with the Inca, where he makes an invocation to the Sun. Later he and his delegation travels to Sacsayhuamán, where a (simulated) sacrifice or a llama or alpaca takes place, followed by a new invocation to the Sun. The blog Cronicas de un Jarocho en Lima [ES] writes about the reasons for the feast in his post “The Inti Raymi Celebration”

Su gran importancia se debió a que en la mitología andina se consideraba al pueblo Inca como descendiente del dios Sol por lo tanto debía rendírsele pleitesía con una celebración suntuosa. Además, la fiesta era llevada a cabo al final de las cosechas de papa y maíz a modo de agradecimiento por las abundantes cosechas; o en su defecto, para pedirle mayores cosechas en la próxima temporada.

It importante can be traced to Andean mythology, which considered the Incas as descendents of the Sun god and one must honor them with a grand celebration. The feast also took place at the end of the potato and corn harvest and this offered them an opportunity to provide gratitude for the bountiful harvests or in the case of when the harvest is less than expected, then they ask for better harvests during the next season

The rituals took place at sunrise at the Sun Temple in front of a giant golden disc that represented Inti or the Sun God. Once the first rituals were completed, the Inca continued along the “Intik’iqllu” or “Street of the Sun” (which is now Loreto Street) towards the city’s main plaza in order to sacrifice a llama.

Baluart.net [ES] writes about the actual celebration in his post “The Majestic Festival of Inti Raymi in Cuzco”

Participan en las escenificaciones un agrupamiento de 90 soldados, representando a los soldados del inca. Además forman parte de la comitiva del Inti Raymi, 25 parejas de mujeres que representan a las ajllas. Enriqueciendo la escenificación al introducir el anda para el Inca, de igual manera que para la esposa o coya.

A group of 90 soldiers, which represents the Incan soldiers, take part in the dramatization. Twenty-five pairs of women that represent the “Ajllas” form part of the Inti Raymi assembly, which only adds to the scene.

Ever since many Peruvians have emigrated over the years, Inti Raymi is not just celebrated in Cuzco. The Peruvian community in New York also will celebrate June 24, as reported by Soy Andina . The event includes lectures about Incan food and cooking, a Quechua workshop for children, presentations of typical foods, arts and crafts, paintings and even a llama that one can take photos with.

One thing is talk or try to explain Inti Raymi and another is seeing it for one’s self. At Inti Raymi Parades of Image Events, one can find photographs and videos. There are also splendid photos on Flickr, and there are also videos on YouTube of Inti Raymi. There are videos of varying qualities and interests, so I don’t doubt that you will find what you would like. Happy 24th!

Global Voices en Español
This post is brought to you by the Global Voices en Español team of GV Lingua. Project Lingua seeks to amplify global voices in languages other than English through the help of volunteer translators. If you would like to contribute as a volunteer and join the GV in Spanish team, please click here.

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