Text and photos by Robert Bradley
The feast of Kapak Raymi was celebrated in the Plaza Civica, adjacent the Mercado 9 de Octumbre, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Three days of dance, crafts, and good food made for a jam-packed celebration that continues a tradition dating back hundreds of years. The Spanish referred to it as the “indigenous Christmas.”
Every December 21, the summer solsitce in the southern hemisphere, indigenous people celebrate the birth of the sun and the beginning of a new cycle. Ancient Inca tradition held that the ashes of those sacrificed during the year were gathered and thrown into the rivers washing them to the sea, symbolizing the return of everything to nature. It was also the time to ritualistically transform young males from the bonds of childhood into the community of warriors.
Historical accounts indicate that ancestral peoples celebrated two solstices during the year, Inti Raymi, on June 21, when the corn matured, and Kapak Raymi on December 21, when the village leaders gathered to thank the sun for the beginning of the new planting period.
In September, planting begins and on the 21st of that month the location of the sun and the moon allow the earth to fertilize the seeds, which is called Allpa Mama; for this reason, the Killa Raymi or Femininity Festival was created, in honor of the woman who has the gift of becoming pregnant and also the moon that provides germination.
After three months, on December 21, the cornfields are already in the weeding season, or Jayma Pacha, whose party was baptized as the Kapak Raymi or Children’s Party.
During the cultivation cycle three more months pass and on March 21 the sowing blooms, which in Quichua language is known as the Sisay Pacha, and gives way to the celebration of Paucar Raymi, which coincides with the celebration of the carnival.
To finally complete the life cycle of the crops, on June 21 the harvest season begins. This is Inti Raymi, which is the largest festival of indigenous peoples in which they give thanks for the earth’s bounty and life itself.