Every year, on June 24th, Cusco stages Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun. It is a re-enactment of the Inca Empire’s feast on the occasion of the winter solstice, a time of great ritual significance. The modern-day version of Inti Raymi has been celebrated since 1944, and among travelers from abroad and from within Peru, it has become a major reason to visit to Cusco in late June.
The “scientific discovery” of Machu Picchu in 1911 focused the world’s attention on the remote mountaintop sanctuary and on the civilization that engineered this daring architectural feat. Locally, Machu Picchu also bolstered a burgeoning sense of pride in Cusco’s Inca past. Versed in Quechua oral histories and steeped in the chronicles of the conquest, Cusco’s intellectuals found this a precipitous time to recuperate the city’s lost traditions and, when there were gaps in the archival record, to invent new ones based on deep study of Inca history and culture. Inti Raymi is the product of this revival. (For more on the history of this celebration, read our older post on the Inti Raymi Festival.) In a city that does not lack for festivals to fill the cultural calendar, Inti Raymi has become one of the largest and most important celebrations in Cusco, perhaps precisely because of its local significance. More than 500 actors, organized by university, professional, or neighborhood affiliation, prepare and practice for months beforehand, designing elaborate and ornate costumes, refining dance sequences, and coordinating the most minor details or the procession, all in order to give full homage to the Inca past.