Last thursday we celebrated Corpus Christi in the Plaza de Armas. The city transformed into a sea of tourists and Cusquenans and our group witnessed the festivities from a balcony: a truly perfect view. Corpus Christi is an interesting cross between the Catholic faith of the Spanish and the Incan roots that are still deeply instilled in the people of Perú. While the Saints are the main attraction in their intricate golden and silver robes, locals in their bright Cusquenan colors and traditional dress catch your eye in the crowd.
Today, we celebrated a very different holiday, Inti Raymi: in Quechua “Festival of the Sun”. The festivities begin at Qorikancha originally, in Quechua Inti Wasi or “Sun House”. Qorikancha was the most important temple in the Inca Empire. Unfortunately, it was stripped of its gold, silver, and precious stones during Spanish colonization. During the time of the Incas the temple was a spectacular sight, dedicating separate temples to the sun (Inti), the moon (Mama Quilla), and lightning/rain/thunder (Illapa). The Spanish applied plaster to the walls of the temple when it was converted into the church of Santo Domingo, but in the earthquake of 1950 the original Inca stone was revealed and recognized by archaeologists and historians.
Today, Incan culture was celebrated and remembered through a re-enactment of traditional Inca customs. An actor was selected to represent the Inca, men and women dressed in different traditional garments in order to represent the four different Suyos or terrains of Perú, conchs were blown, and the Inca blessed the four corners of the world with Chicha: an Andean beer.
Festivities then moved to the plaza, and again our group watched the ceremony from the same balcony. Papa Inti, father sun in Quechua (The Inca) spoke in Quechua blessing the city of Cusco and its people. After, processions were made around the plaza, the Inca and his wife Coya were carried by their “royal entourage”, and the sea of onlookers erupted with cheers and clapping. Days like today restore my faith in the beauty of progress. During Spanish rule, not only was Qorikancha taken from the Incas, but these celebrations were prohibited. Today, not only can Andean culture express itself freely, but the people of Cusco still have a tight grasp on their ancestry and roots. While the Spanish conquered and instilled a new language, government, and lifestyle, the spirit of the Inca is still vibrantly alive.