With bonfires, rituals and offerings to the Pachamama, several indigenous populations of the Bolivian Andes received the Andean New Year on Wednesday, a celebration of the pre-Hispanic peoples that coincides with the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere.
During the early morning of June 21 -which is a holiday in Bolivia- believers congregate in the hills to stoke bonfires while waiting for the first rays of Tata Inti -father Sun- who come charged with renewed energy, according to traditions. During the wait, Andean religious leaders celebrate rituals with native dances in honor of Pachamama or Mother Earth to ask for good harvests in the new agricultural cycle.
This year the prayers have been more fervent after the latest climatic events such as drought and premature frosts that have punished the high Andean regions in recent months. “It has been a hard year, the potato has not yielded as before, there was no rain and the frosts have burned the plants before their time. That is why our belief in Pachamama has to be stronger,” said Antonio Quispe, leader of the Aymara community in the small town of Guaqui, 90 kilometers west of La Paz.
The epicenter of the New Year celebration or Willka Kuti is the archaeological town of Tiwanaku, 65 kilometers southwest of La Paz, where one of the most important cultures of the altiplano flourished around 1,500 years BC. President Luis Arce arrived there, who participated in the rituals in a stone temple and, like everyone else, raised his hands to the sun when the first rays began to warm the vast plateau that registered temperatures below zero.
In La Paz the believers moved away towards the hills that surround the city to wait for the first rays of the sun around a bonfire and folkloric dances. “We offer to have good energy,” said the amauta -Andean religious leader- Antonio Soliz from the Murmutani mountain, where the mayor Iván Arias also attended.
The member of the Academy of History of Ecuador, José Echeverría, explained to The Associated Press that upon arrival in America the Catholic Church approved the cult of the sun and the Inca festivals with their saints “to impose their worldview. It was a supplanting of parties indigenous people for religious festivals”.
He added that “the original term to indicate this festival before the arrival of the Incas was Hatun Punlla, the big festival, then with the arrival of the Incas it changed to Inti Raymi and became the San Juanes at the time of the arrival of the Spanish”.
In the community of Araque in the province of Imbabura, in northern Ecuador, the leader Franklin Torres told AP that the party lasts at least a week. “For years our communities have been committed to changing the religious connotation of this millennial festival, which used to be in honor of San Juan, were the San Juanes, but now we want them to be known as the Inti Raymi festival in honor of the harvests.” .
The festival lasts between five and seven days and begins with a ritual bath in the water springs to absorb energy. Some families prepare food, others clean the costumes, but something that cannot be missing is the Aya Huma, also known as Diablo Huma, who represents the two faces: good and evil, night and day, the upper and the lower. down. “El Diablo Huma wears goat leather pants and we consider that he is goat leather because with the smell he scares away evil spirits,” explained Torres.
The families prepare chicha, cook nickname, bread, potatoes, guinea pigs and chickens to receive their relatives and groups of dancers.
“It is a thank you to the sun and to the fertility of the earth, that is why they dance tapping… in the Andean culture it is understood that there is a permanent, uninterrupted cycle of harvesting, planting, life, death,” said Torres.