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Inti Raymi Guide 2024
The festival of the sun!
Cusco - Peru
Nicole Maxdeo
May 10, 2024

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This festival includes music, deeply rooted customs, and performances that depict the life of the Incas back then. In ancient times, in addition to the festivals, animal sacrifices were made as expressions of gratitude to their Sun God. These displays of gratitude were based on the abundant harvest and good omens for the new year.

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When the Spanish arrived, they made many changes around this festival, considering it pagan. However, today it is one of the best representations of Andean expression. It now brings together thousands of people and over 800 participants, including actors, dancers, and musicians in traditional costumes. Among the performances and songs that take place outside the temple of Qorikancha, in the main square of the city, and finally, in the Archaeological Park of Sacsayhuamán in Cusco - Peru.

What is Inti Raymi?

Inti Raymi is a religious festival dating back to the time of the Incas. During that time, the Incas worshiped their Sun God, Inti. It was believed that Inti Raymi lasted for 15 days, during which sacrifices were made and dances were performed at the Sacsayhuaman fortress. The last Inti Raymi held in the presence of the Inca Emperor was in the year 1535, one year before the Spanish Conquest.

This festival marks the beginning of the harvest and the winter solstice. After the arrival of the Spanish and their colonization, this celebration was banned as Catholicism was imposed. Some communities managed to maintain it clandestinely until it was revitalized and transformed into a public event in the mid-20th century.

Today, Inti Raymi is a scenic representation, where thousands of Cusqueños and visitors come to witness one of the greatest cultural displays in history.

What does the Sun symbolize in Inti Raymi?

For the Incas, the Sun was their supreme deity. Therefore, during Inti Raymi, the Sun God is worshiped, as it is thanks to him that they can obtain their crops and their main source of life. The sun is one of the most supreme gods, if not the most admired by the Incas within Andean cosmology and worldview.
The Sun God initiates the festival and a new cycle within the Andean year, occurring amidst the winter solstice. Offerings, temples, etc., were dedicated to the sun because it was the one blessing them, thus deserving respect and adoration.

Inti Raymi in Inca Times

During the era of the Incas, Inti Raymi was the largest and most important festival. This festival took place during the time of the Tahuantinsuyo Empire, which had a religion that devoted much devotion to the Sun. This was instituted by the Inca governor Pachacutec in the 14th century as a religious reform, with the sun being their supreme deity.

In this celebration, there were ceremonial acts involving Acllas, Wayllus, the Inca Imperial Army, a representative from each suyo, and some members of the Inca organization. Animal sacrifices in honor of the Sun God were still practiced during these celebrations. During the Inca era, part of the followers and Inca population adopted these customs as their own and celebrated in secret, as the Spaniards had prohibited it.

This celebration begins with the entrance of the Inca to the Plaza de Armas, formerly known as Haukaypata, as well as to the esplanade of Saqsayhuaman. During this entrance, the Inca is accompanied by a group of "Acllas," who were responsible for throwing flowers. Behind them, the "pichanas" or those in charge of warding off evil spirits with straw brooms walked.

Throughout all the outdoor presentations, he was accompanied by his "kumillo," or hunchbacked dwarf who carried the "Achiwa," a kind of umbrella or parasol made of colorful feathers.

How and When is Inti Raymi Staged?

After its celebration during the Inca era and its subsequent cancellation or prohibition by the Spaniards, a historian named Humberto Vidal Luna initiated the proposal in conjunction with the American Art Institute in 1943. This project aimed to stage an Inca ceremony that showcases their traditions and culture almost as realistically as it was done back then.

By 1944, the staging of Inti Raymi took place for the first time, occurring every June 24, which is now known as Cusco Day.

The first Inti Raymi after the Spanish rule had as its protagonist Don Faustino Espinoza Navarro, the first actor to portray the Inca, a writer, and actor from Cusco, founder of the Academy Mayor of the Quechua Language.

Does Women Participate in Inti Raymi?

Women played a very important role in the Inca empire as they were a symbol of abundance and fertility. They were responsible for teaching other women about textile work and household chores. As representatives, they had the Inca's wife, the Qoya, who led crisis situations in the Tahuantinsuyo. For example, when the Inca died, she led the community of the noble Incas.

During Inti Raymi, the Qoya was a highly significant character, accompanying the Inca throughout the course of this ceremony, demonstrating sovereignty and power.

Inti Raymi Route

Traditionally, the Inti Raymi follows this route:

Qorikancha or Temple of the Sun

The journey begins here with the "Salute to the Sun" ceremony. During this initial phase, the pututus signal the start of the festival and the entrance of the acllas, musicians, and dancers. After their establishment, the Inca is welcomed, who will then initiate the first rituals.

Main Square of Cusco or Huacaypata

Following the salute to the sun, the entourage, along with the Inca, moves to Cusco's main square. Here, at this second point of Inti Raymi celebration, the ceremony of the "Meeting of Times' ' and the coca leaf ceremony take place. It is here that the Inca meets with the great ushnu or ceremonial stage.

Sacsayhuaman archeological site

The most important point of the celebration. Here, the central ceremony takes place and most of the Inti Raymi's dramatization is concentrated. In this venue, the Qoya and the Inca enter accompanied by dances, music, and chants, before commencing the central ceremony. Finally, the Inca begins the ritual offering, sacrificing a llama in honor of the Sun God.

Inti Raymi 2024 Prices

To be part of this celebration, you must purchase a ticket at EMUFEC in Cusco. Here are the following:

Inti Raymi Tickets SACSAYHUAMAN KORICANCHA + SACSAYHUAMAN
Foreigner Peruvian Foreigner Peruvian
Green Zone 125 USD 52 USD 170 USD 78 USD
Orange Zone 195 USD 195 USD 240 USD 240 USD
Red Zone 195 USD 195 USD 240 USD 240 USD

 

What to Bring to Inti Raymi?

As it's an outdoor celebration with significant sun exposure, we recommend bringing the following:

  • Hat or cap.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Cell phone with tickets or printed ticket (for the show at Sacsayhuamán).
  • Rehydrating water.
  • Snacks.
  • Identification document or passport.

Performance Schedule and Duration

09:00 AM: Qorikancha: start of the performance. Duration 45 minutes.

10:30 AM: Auqaypata (Main Square): The Inca and his Royal Court enter through Intikijllu Street. Duration 1 hour.

01:00 PM: Main Performance at the Sacred Plaza of Saqsaywaman: with a duration of 90 minutes, featuring the rituals of the New Fire, the Coca leaf, the offerings of the Four Suyos, and the prediction of future times, among others.

 

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