Inti Raymi: A festival of the sun

We were warned:  “There are parades everyday all day.”

Sure, we thought, there will be some madness since Cusco’s main festival is coming up.. it’ll be fine.  Ummm, right.

It was Incansanity with hourly parades, fireworks, rainbow flags, and whole lot of dancing. Based on a religious ceremony honouring Inti, the sun god, June 24 also marks the winter solstice and according to the Peruvians it is time to party.

The days leading up to Inti Raymi were awash with bright colours and the vast array of different traditional costumes kept my finger on my camera’s shoot button at all times.  Smiles and laughter surrounded the festival, it was pretty hard not to get caught up in all the excitement.

Around 10am on the morning of June 24, along with locals and tourists we trudged up to Sacsayhuamán (pronounced close enough to ’sexy woman’ for gringo amusement) to find a place to sit to watch the day’s events.  Chairs can be purchased in the stands closer to the ceremonies for $90 USD … up on the rocks, with the locals, it’s free.  Tom scouted out a good place to sit and we settled in to wait until 1pm.  Normally what would have been a long boring wait turned out to be an entertaining show in Andean crowd antics.  People, giddy and perhaps a bit sauced, were ready for anything.  In the time we sat waiting at least three fights broke out and cheers, jeers and general excitement almost created full scale battles.  Finally the ceremony began and although we couldn’t hear what was going on we had a fairly clear view.  Everything was going okay until people started standing up vying for better viewing positions and greatly displeasing the hoards of people sitting behind them.  Starting with disgruntled yells of “Siéntense!!!” (sit down!) then escalating to throwing water bottles and then garbage, we began to get a bit concerned when the guy beside us picked up a fist-sized rock and lined up the man who had pelted his wife with a bag of half-eaten fruit. The sitters rained all sorts of debris on the unyielding standers to no avail.  We tried to hold our ground but when my head became someone’s armrest and the woman directly behind us crouched down because of the lack of ‘facilities’ we decided we had seen enough.

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