Cusco prepares for 75th celebration of revived Incan tradition ‘Inti Raymi’

World Today

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the revival of an ancient Inca festival in Peru. It’s called Inti Raymi, and it’s become a cultural fixture for tourists and locals alike. CGTN’s Dan Collyns reports.

The preparations for Inca New Year begin. Workers polish a statue of the Inca in Cusco’s main square while hundreds of dancers are put through their paces ahead of the big day.

University students representing the Inca women, or Acllas, adore the sun. Police cadets and army recruits play the role of the victorious Inca warriors returning from battle.

The artistic director Leonardo Arana reminds them that Inca Empire stretched from modern-day Colombia in the north to Chile and Argentina in the south and that Cusco was its capital. They should feel proud to be its descendants.

“As a human being and as a professional it’s a huge challenge knowing this great and wise Andean culture,” Arana said. “It is a deep emotion which sometimes brings me to tears to feel in that place where we were, our ancestors were unjustly murdered, that is what moves me most of all when I’m in the main square.”

Behind the scenes, Arana’s organization Filigranas Peruanas, which produces tradition festivities in Cusco, has been working against the clock to prepare the costumes for some 700 actors and dancers.

Here burnishing the bronze armor for the Inca is Chilean Olimpia Jiménez who comes every year to take part in the festival as an Inti Raymi dancer.

“I’m a physical education teacher specialized in Latin American folk dances,” she explained. “I first came to Cusco four years ago and for the last two I’ve been taking part in Inti Raymi.”

She’s the only non-Peruvian to take part in the celebration, which goes to the heart of Cusco’s identity. Other participants brush up the costumes which have been gathering dust for a year.

The artistic directors are putting the finishing touches to the performance, marking the biggest day in Cusco’s festival calendar, the winter solstice, the longest and most sacred day for the sun-worshipping Incas.

The theatrical interpretation will climax in the Sacsayhuaman fortress. In the spectacular surroundings, the Inca will stand on a ceremonial pyramid known as an Ushnu. Surrounded by his high priests, nobles and courtiers he’ll lead an elaborate ritual of speeches and sacrifices.

David Ancca, the actor who plays the Inca, said “the preparation is constant, daily.”

“For eight years, I’ve been doing this and every day of those years has been part of my preparation to represent this character the Inca, so that the Inca is portrayed in his full glory, so that the people can see that the Inca is here and the Inca lives,” he added.

For the Incas, the Inti, or Sun, was the most important in their pantheon of Gods. The solstice, say historians, marked the return of the source of life to Andes and it continues to be celebrated in farming communities to this day.

Thousands of tourists and locals will watch Inti Raymi and hundreds of Peruvians will take part in the performance, including Will Chavez, who grew up in the U.S.

“I feel very connected to my roots to the Inca,” Chavez explained. “It’s spoken in Quechua. It’s our own language before the Spaniards came.”

“I feel really proud, this really deep sense of identity that I am where I belong,” he added. “I’m an Indian Inca that belongs in Cusco.”

In the days ahead of the winter solstice festival celebration, students have demonstrated the myriad of different typical dances from across the Peruvian Andes.

There has been a seemingly endless parade dances and music which show folk culture is alive and well and the connection to the past is far from lost.