Friday, 24 June 2011
Yesterday was a very special day for Cusco, as it was Inti Raymi - the Festival of the Sun. It is an Inkan ceremony, honouring the Sun God and takes place at the Winter Solstice when the sun is furthest from the Earth. It was banned by the Catholic Church after the Spanish invasion in 1572 and the modern re-enactment began in the 1940s. Obviously, as Christians, we do not agree with sun worship, but watching the festivities was a wonderful insight into Inkan culture, beliefs and ritual. I could not help but compare the colour, vibrancy, life and dancing with ceremonies in the UK... here is a glimpse of our day:
We arrived in the main square, Plaza de Armas, which was already bustling with people. The Plaza is lined with cafes and restaurants with balconies, and we found one that still had some space, in exchange for drinks and breakfast. And then we waited and waited, until the first set of dancers apppeared from the Temple of the Sun and the drum beats began. Within minutes, the dancers appeared from all corners of the square, with brightly coloured costumes, each dance and costume signifying different elements of the ceremony. Some of the significance was lost in us, but we could still appreciate the splendour.
As the Inka passed, the crowd cheered - with people from all over the world looking on, but more significantly along side lots of Cusquenans.
As the ceremony drew to a close, the real live mummy appeared, and then the action moved to Saqsaywaman, the Inka ruins which look down upon Cusco.
We joined the meandering crowds, as we climbed towards the ruins, with paths lined with stalls selling food, sun hats and even portable stools. We made a couple of welcome stops - it is hard work carrying 2 children up a steep hill at altitude - and Sophia had to pose for another photo.
At the top, the wait began as we perched on a steep hill in the middle of the ruins waiting for another ceremony to begin, although with less good views this time and with no table service.
The realities of experiencing these amazing sights with small children began to kick in and requests for a useable toilet and home began to be voiced. After moving positions and seeing the dancers winding their way down the ruins to the main arena, we decided it was time for home.
We managed (accidentally)to take a scenic route back to the road, scrambling down rocks and soaking in the atmosphere and sights. We realised that lots of people were not attempting to watch the ceremony, but were participating in the festival ambience. Sophia kept saying 'huh' and covering her mouth in amazement at the waves of people, but always managed a smile and to blow a kiss as she received more attention.
Then, finally, we made it to a functioning part of road and even managed to have a seat on the bus on the way home, where our part of town was like a ghost town. As we began descending back towards Cusco, I looked up at the deserted giant statue of Jesus, Cristo Blanco, which is close to the ruins. He looked lonely.