I have dreamt of being in Cusco for Inti Raymi for many years, and it is surreal that I am here now! For those who don’t know, Inti Raymi, or “Festival of the Sun” is a week-long festival that culminates on the Winter Solstice, and marks the start of their new year.  The Inca worshipped the Sun as their main God, so both the summer and winter solstice were very important times of the year – in particular the winter.

Some facts according to Wikipedia:

“During the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi was the most important of four ceremonies celebrated in Cusco, as related by Inca Garcilaso de la Vega

The ceremony was also said to indicate the mythical origin of the Incas, lasting nine days of colorful dances and processions, as well as animal sacrifices to ensure a good cropping season. The last Inti Raymi with the Inca Emperor’s presence was carried out in 1535, after which the Spanish conquest and the Catholic Church suppressed it. Some natives participated in similar ceremonies in the years after, but it was completely prohibited in 1572 by the Viceroy Francisco de Toledo, who claimed it was a pagan ceremony opposed to the Catholic faith.

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.  In 1944, a historical reconstruction of the Inti Raymi was directed by Faustino Espinoza Navarro and indigenous actors. The first reconstruction was largely based on the chronicles of Garcilaso de la Vega and only referred to the religious ceremony.”

My fellow Board member and friend, Robin was with me throughout the week, and we woke up early on the 24th to take in the main event in the Plaza de Armas.  We sat our butts down on the very cold Cathedral steps for four hours so that we could get good seats to the performance.  As mentioned above, Inti Raymi is essentially a three act play that is performed across the city of Cusco.  Act I begins at 6:00 AM at Qoricancha, Act II begins around 11 AM in the Plaza de Armas, and Act III culminates at the top of Sacsayhuamán ruins overlooking the city.  Robin and I watched Act 2 and made the long uphill trek to Sacsayhuamán to catch the tail end of the Final Act.  The colors, the music, the dancing, and the energy were just…electric.  Yes, over the years the festival has become pretty “touristy” – but thankfully I have made many local friends, and have been able to learn about and participate in some of the more traditional festivities as well.  All in all – Inti Raymi 2010 was a fabulous, unforgettable experience!

You can see the rest of my Inti Raymi pics below…