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Stamp, stomp, stamp, to level up the Earth! To the rhythm of the melodica, the guitar and the harmonica comes a celebration led by the indigenous communities of the Andes and specially those from Cotacachi. The major celebration in the Andean region, the Inti Raymi or the Festival of the Sun, relives a thousand-years-old celebration that only takes place that day of the year when the sunlight lasts longer.
The Andean world celebrates in late June the summer solstice, which marks the end of the agricultural cycle. The Earth has generously give its products, abundance in fruits and cattle sprang from its center and the meadows are painted in blossom colors. The “Pachamama”, Mother Nature in Quichua, has been generous with its inhabitants and in gratitude the men from the middle of the world prepares a great ceremony in his honor.
The Inti Raymi is considered a sacred festival and has one of its biggest celebrations in the city of Cotacachi, located in the Imbabura province. The festivity dates from the pre-Inca times and has undergone different transformations over the centuries. The Spaniard conquerors sought to put an end to this cultural expression and made this party coincide with the Catholic calendar’s Saint John’s celebration and Corpus Christi, an indoctrination that couldn’t destroy its original purpose. Currently, the millennial feast presents a profound religious and cultural syncretism, a blend of the ancient traditions with the newcomers religion.
The festival is a representative expression of our indigenous culture and gathers thousands of national and international travelers who participate in ceremonial tables, sacred baths, dances and many other ancient rituals in the days leading up to the major celebration (June 22). Each act has its special meaning and symbols that goes back to the ancient indigenous worldview.
It all starts with a cleansing. The sacred baths are meant to purify the body and soul allowing people to renew themselves with Mother Nature’s energy. The Cuicocha lagoon, the Peguche waterfall or the rivers in the area are the main energetic sites often used for these activities, true sacred places where the traveler will feel the vibe of the whole.
In addition, the members of the nearby communities prepare for the famous Takeover of the Square. Early in the morning, men with the “zamarro”, a hat and the whip, their traditional attire, nourish themselves with grains and dance in circles to the rhythm of drums and joyful sounds.
The strength of the stomping and the intensity of the whistle walks towards the city’s main square where other communities gather to seize it. But it’s not only men who take the square, women join the dance with cheerful chants while circling around. The presence of women gives calm to the Earth, it’s their dance that brings balance to the celebration after the euphoria of dancing men… and so the Earth, balanced once again, is ready to spiral into a new cycle.
Learn about the indigenous culture in the Inti Raymi. Visit Cotacachi, discover its traditions, live its parties and stomp along to help them balance the Earth. Also, remember that this area of the Andes is well known for its high end leather production. So don’t forget to acquire some clothing, shoes, accessories and many other souvenirs to remind you of the Earth’s balance on every step you take from now on.