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Inti Raymi Festival in Cusco

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Home » Festividades del Perú » Inti Raymi Festival in Cusco

Inti Raymi 2023 (Feast of the Sun) begins in June and Cusco celebrates the three most important celebrations of the year: Corpus Christi, Inti Raymi and the Lord of Qoyllur Ritti.

After two years of restrictions due to the Coronavirus, 2023 brings back the most important celebration of the Inca Empire, the Inti Raymi. In this article we tell you about the Inti Raymi that will be celebrated this year, as well as the historical past of this millenary celebration.

When is Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) celebrated in Cusco?

Garcilaso de la Vega (Peruvian writer and historian) narrates that the Inti Raymi was a religious-cultural tradition, which was celebrated every winter solstice, on June 21, to worship the sun or Inti in Quechua, so that it would favor the crops and ensure food for the population.

History of Inti Raymi

Inti Raymi

The Inti Raymi was the most important festival of the Inca Empire since Pachacutec in 1430 established it to commemorate the Sun God in the winter solstice. Although the Inti Raymi was banned in the Viceroyalty, thanks to the writings of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega it could be reconstructed in 1944 and since then it has been celebrated every year.

Inti Raymi is not the same today as it was twenty or sixty years ago, but has become one of the largest festivals in the country, gathering 100,000 spectators in 2019.

This 2023 the festival of the Sun will be held in three scenarios: the temple of Qoricancha, the main square of Cusco and the most important in Saqsayhuaman.

There are 800 people who will participate in the staging of the Inti Raymi to represent the Inca, his Qoyas, the royal panacas and the retinues of the four Inca Empire.

It is an impressive celebration full of music and color, with real offerings to the Gods and it is the closest we are going to get to see Inca costumes and rituals.

Inti Raymi Festival in Cusco
Inti Raymi

The 2020 was not the first time that the Inti Raymi was cancelled, but in 1950 and 1970 it was suspended due to the terrible earthquakes in Cusco and Ancash.

Respecting health measures, the Sacsayhuaman archaeological park is being prepared for the attendance of 3,500 spectators in three grandstands with prices ranging from US$35 to US$140 for 2022.

It goes without saying that it will be required to present the vaccination card with the three doses and to wear a double mask.

Inca origin of Inti Raymi

The Inti Raymi was one of the four great festivals that marked the solar year in the Inca Empire, occupying both solstices and both equinoxes.

The Inti Raymi was the festival in honor of the Sun that was celebrated in June, in the winter solstice. However, the chronicles tell us that it was a small festival in comparison with the Qhapaq Inti Raymi that was celebrated in December, in the summer solstice, to thank the Sun for the beginning of the rains and to ask for a good harvest.

Inti Raymi Festival in Cusco
© David Ducoin www.tribuducoin.com

It is believed that Inti Raymi was established by the Inca Pachacutec in 1430 and that the festival could last around 15 days and congregate thousands of people who came to Cusco from all over the empire.

Hundreds of llamas were sacrificed, coca leaves were burned, chicha was drunk and dances were performed to thank the Wayna Inti (Young Sun) for the crops that will feed the population for the whole year.

This celebration continued until 1572, when the Spanish viceroy Francisco de Toledo prohibited its celebration, although this did not prevent it from being held clandestinely.

Modern reinvention of Inti Raymi

The streets of Cusco did not see the Inti Raymi again until 1944 when, based on the chronicles of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, a reconstruction of the festival was made in Sacsayhuaman. Since 1943 a group of intellectuals from the American Institute of Art managed the creation of a holiday for Cusco.

Thus, June 24 was called Cusco Day and the Inti Raymi festival was reinstated, when previously June 24 was celebrated as the Day of the Indian. Of all the reinventors of Inti Raymi, Faustino Espinoza Navarro is the most memorable, because he not only wrote the entire script of the festival and was the stage director, but also acted for 14 consecutive years as Sapa Inca.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fiesta del Sol

What does Inti Raymi mean ?

Inti Raymi by its translation from the Quechua language is defined as "Inti = sun, Raymi = Feast", it is understood as the feast of the sun.

How did the Incas celebrate Inti Raymi ?

Chroniclers such as Garcilaso de la Vega or Guamán Poma de Ayala, describe the Inti Raymi as the most important festivity of the Incas.

Garcilaso details in his book how the offerings were, they consisted of coca leaves and glasses of chicha, clothing and blankets made of the finest vicuña fibers, the main sacrifice was a black flame, considered sacred, accompanied by a selection of the best corn of the empire, and the best agricultural products brought from all parts of the empire. All these gifts were burned in a ritual officiated by the Willaq Umo, the high priest of Cusco who directed the temple of the Sun Qoricancha.

Why is this celebration important?

The celebration of Inti Raymi is a celebration that beyond recreating an ancient ceremony, is now a symbol of identity, and union to our roots and origins.

Where can I participate in the Inti Raymi?

Every year thousands of Cusqueños apply to the calls made by the Municipality of Cusco, passing certain requirements, only a few are selected to get a role in the staging of the Inti Raymi.

How many actors stage the sun festival in Cusco?

There are more than 500 actors, actresses, dancers and musicians, and additionally the Peruvian army and police are present playing the powerful Inca army.

Is it possible to film or take photographs?

The Inti Raymi is a big public event, of course you should bring your cameras well charged to take the best pictures and videos.

What to take to Inti Raymi - Tips?

The event is outdoors, so it is important to wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the walk, sunscreen is essential, caps and hats, it is also important to remember that the inti raymi lasts almost all day, so you can bring fruit and / or snacks, additionally it is advisable to carry a backpack with only the necessary, since much of the event is displayed on foot.

Curiosities of Inti Raymi

  • The rehearsals of those who participate in the Inti Raymi begin 2 months before the big day, June 24.
  • The costumes used in the final presentation were woven in the community of Chinchero, for a greater fidelity to the original Inti Raymi.
  • It is a requirement to speak the Quechua language, since the entire staging of the Inti Raymi is done in this ancestral language.
  • The role of Inca and Qoya, the royal couple, is very important and in high demand, so the call for these characters begins between January and February, 5 months before Inti Raymi.
  • The Inti Raymi is the biggest event in Peru,
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