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Each year the Pachamama Festival takes place on the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and heralding the return of the sun as we move back towards summer, and we all love summer! Across the Pacific at the same time, many parts of Latin America will celebrate Inti Raymi, essentially New Years Day on the Inca calendar. Pachatutec, the first Inca, created the Inti Raymi to celebrate the winter solstice and to welcome the new agricultural year and to honour Pachamama (Mother Nature in Quechua).
In Quechua Inti means Sun and Raymi celebration and this years festival is a celebration of Indigenous languages around the world.
The Inti Raymi was prohibited by the Spanish during the first years of the conquest claiming that it was a pagan ceremony and not in compliance with the catholic religion, however, small ceremonies took place without major consequences. Later, during the colony, in 1572 Viceroy Francisco de Toledo officially banned the celebration along with many other Inca traditions; even wearing traditional Inca clothes was outlawed. These rulings took effect after a series of Inca rebellions such as the uprising of the last Inca ruler Tupac Amaru I who was executed along with his family and advisers. Inti Raymi, the most important festival to Incas, welcomed the new agricultural year and celebrated Pachamama (Mother Nature in Kichwa). Incas would pray to Inti with hallucinatory traditions, animal sacrifices, and dances thanking Inti for giving them more hours in the day to tend to the harvesting and ensure a prosperous coming season.
In northern Ecuador, dances feature the character of Aya Uma, believed to be the spirit of the mountain with the mission of scaring away lurking demons that threaten harvests and good energy. A respected member of the community wears the colorful Aya Uma mask, and together with the other dancers, they stamp their feet to encourage Pachamama to restore a new agricultural cycle. In northern Ecuador, the people of Otavalo (indigenous to the Andes mountains) combine Inti Raymi with celebrations of Saints Peter and Paul (June 21–29) and Saint John the Baptist (June 24). On June 22, a ritual bath called Armay Chishi takes place around midnight in a sacred waterfall. This bath is believed to remove accumulated negative energy and strengthen the relationship with Pachamama. Afterward, the streets are filled with dancers and paraders, who are required to do the ritual bath. Dressed in traditional, colorful clothing and playing instruments, dancers move in circles that represent the two annual solstices.
Most importantly, Inti Raymi celebrates a cultural and indigenous identity lost to the Andean people following Spanish colonization. The festival gives them strength to stand together and be proud of their heritage, their history, and their present-day identity. Otavalo celebrates this by marching the central plaza with the Wiphala flag, representing Inca unity and respecting diversity.
Be sure to check out this years Yarn session, inviting you to join a very powerful and sacred space alongside local Aboriginal elders of the area to hear stories and perspectives, and to seek answers around the complex relationship our country has with the First Peoples of this land. There will be discussion around Indigenous Languages, their significance, loss and revitalization, which will be accompanied by films in different Indigenous Languages from across Australia, curated by indigiTUBE.
Author Contribution Vibeke Johannessen