Journal -- Day 3

June 24th 

Cuzco (Inti Raymi)

Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun, is a traditional Inca ceremony. The original festivities have been lost, but roughly 50 years ago they were revived to provide a more tangible connection to the past. Some key facts remain -- the festival probably started at the Qu'oricancha (spelling!), and it probably then progressed up the hill to Sacsayhuaman (spelling!) above the city. Other than that, the modern festival is a patchwork of guesses and modernizations, with a spirit of authenticity.

The day begins at about 9am at the Qu'oricancha, now underneath a monastery and church. The dancers enter as musicians play pipes and drums, fanning out over a large park and across stone walls. Several local men play generals and officials, including the Inca himself. A local woman plays the Inca's wife, surrounded by blue-clad handmaidens. There is an initial blessing of the group, then they march up to the Plaza de las Armas and on through the city. The costumes are modern interpretations of ancient fabrics in very bold colors and patterns. Easily 200 dancers and other principals are outfitted by role, forming chains of color and movement that intertwine and separate to create beautiful and ever-changing mosiacs.

We rejoin the fun at Sacsayhuaman at 1pm as the dancers arrive from the city. First the priest and heralds enter, standing on each corner of the central stage. They blow conch shells to call the dancers to enter. First from one corner then the next, the dancers enter as if from the four sections of the Inca Empire. The ancient name of this kingdom was Tawatinsuyo (spelling!), or the four regions. Cuzco (then Qus'qo) was the center of those four regions -- the navel of the world. Each regional group is comprised of both warriors and dancers, dressed in their own costumes and colors.

The ceremony continues for roughly two hours through many stages (ref guide?) The most intriguing of these is the sacrifice of the llama, traditionally used for divination. In this modern times, they do not actually sacrifice the llama but rather pantomime the divination. They bind a llama for its trip to and from the altar, and try to convince it to be still once it has been "sacrificed". This year's offering did very well until it was being carried off-stage, at which point it began to struggle. Six men tried to cover for this fact as they carried a squirming llama down a flight a steps and into a small staging area. It was, however, reassuring to see the llama live and well!

That evening, the parads and celebrating continued for many hours, with less organization as the day before but just as much enthusiasm. Fireworks and music echoed through the city well into the night, surely convincing the sun to begin its annual retreat.

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