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The Celebration of Inti Raymi

December 2, 2022

Peru is a world famous tourist destination for its Amazon jungle and its priceless archaeological sites, among which the Inca city of Machu Picchu stands out. Located in the Andes Mountains, it is one of the many vestiges of an ancient culture scattered throughout this South American country.

Peru’s fascination also lies in its rich culture and traditions, rooted in the past and still cherished by its inhabitants. Inti Raymi is the name of one of Peru’s most impressive and important festivals and is certainly worth a visit.

Suffice it to say that Inti Raymi is considered the second largest and most important celebration in Latin America after the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro.

¿What does Inti Raymi mean?

The festival of the sun or Inti Raymi is a tradition rich in history and magic, and for Peruvians it is a symbol of pride and an expression of a strong cultural identity that has survived over the centuries and must be preserved for years to come.

In the Quechua language, Inti Raymi means the resurrection of the sun and, on June 24, the sun is at its closest point to the Earth. In Inca times, this date symbolized the beginning of the new year and the rebirth of Inti, the Sun God.

Although today the celebration has a different aspect than in the past, more like a theatrical performance than a religious rite, this festival today still retains all its magic and spectacularity, especially for the hundreds of thousands of people who flock each year to the colonial city of Cusco to witness it.

inti raymi

Origin of Inti Raymi

The ancient Incas used to believe that the Sun God was reborn to start a new annual cycle, since time was conceived as «circular» and not linear. The celebrations lasted 15 days during which dances, ceremonies and sacrifices were performed.

The celebration, along with other important rituals, was banned in 1572 by Viceroy Francisco Alvarez de Toledo for considering it a pagan festival and contrary to the Catholic faith. This did not prevent the celebrations from taking place, albeit clandestinely.

The ceremony was officially re-established in 1944, when the Cusco intellectual and artist Faustino Espinoza Navarro, based on the chronicles of Garcilaso de la Vega, decided to create a historical recreation of the Inti Raymi to attract tourists to the city.

Since that date, the ceremony has once again become a highly attractive public event with the participation of hundreds of artists and more than 100,000 spectators, including tourists and locals.

¿ Where is Inti Raymi celebrated?

The Inti Raymi festival in Peru is celebrated in the Coricancha square, in front of the Santo Domingo church, which was built by the Spaniards over the Inca Temple of the Sun. Here the Sapa Inca (Inca emperor) recites the traditional invocation to the Sun God and is carried in procession on a golden throne, weighing more than 70 kilos, to the fortress of Sacsayhuaman.

On the way to the fortress, which is decorated with thousands of flowers, women continuously clean the path to ward off evil spirits. When the procession arrives at Sacsayhuaman, the Sapa Inca climbs the stairs to the sacred altar, where he pronounces a blessing together with the three animal priests that symbolize life.

The snake, which symbolizes the animals that live under the earth, the puma, which symbolizes the animals that live on the earth, and the condor, which symbolizes the animals that live in the air. This is followed by the ritual sacrifice (simulated) of a white llama, to ensure the fertility of the land. The ceremony ends with a procession to Cusco.

This celebration is well known worldwide and has spread to other Latin American countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama, among others.

¿When is Inti Raymi celebrated??

The Inti Raymi festival is the main Inca celebration has been celebrated for more than 600 years on June 24. The festival begins on the morning of June 24 and lasts for a week. During this week, the city of Cusco is filled with music and historical representations with more than 500 actors and dancers.

Inti Raymi is also synonymous with tourism. Every year, more than 100,000 visitors come from all over the world to witness it. In the past, the date was the solstice of June 21, while the current performance takes place on a different date. To allow as many people as possible to participate in the festivities and events, it was decided to set Inti Raymi on June 24, a holiday on which Peru celebrates the «Day of the Peasant».