Inti Raymi, or the “Festival of the Sun,” falls on June 21 or 22, the date of the southern hemisphere’s winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Indigenous communities throughout the Andean highland countries of South America celebrate the winter solstice with ceremonies designed to bring the Sun back and shorten the longest night. Incan in origin, Inti Raymi honored the sun as the source of light, heat, and life, and celebrated the start of a new planting season. The name Inti Raymi comes from the Quechua language: inti means “sun” and raymi means “festival.” The largest festival takes place in Cuzco, Peru, the ancient capital of the Incan civilization and empire. In Cuzco, Inti Raymi has grown into a major tourist attraction. Thousands of people visit the city to enjoy the performances by folkloric groups and to watch the theatrical presentation of the Incan ceremony, the focal point of the celebration.

Vocabulario para celebrar
el aymara language of indigenous group from Bolivia and Peru
los incas Incas, an ancient South American people
el quechua language common to many South American indegenous
  groups and adopted and spread by Incas
el sol sun

Choose three adjectives that describe Inti Raymi. Explain each choice.

Presentación cultural de Inti Raymi  In Cuzco, professional actors and actresses interpret the roles of the Incan emperor and others. Above: A woman carries offerings. Below: The Incan emperor passes through the streets of Cuzco to the ruins of the Incan fortress, Sacsayhuaman.


Indígenas ecuatorianas  A dance group from the Paktarinmi cultural organization forms a “sacred circle” with grains of corn, a pre-Incan rite. In Ecuador, which lies on the equator, this date is considered the summer solstice, rather than the winter.

Los aymaras  In the pre-Columbian ruins of Tihuanaku, an Aymara priest blows on a shell to celebrate the winter solstice, which marks the new year. The Aymara are one of two dominant indigenous groups in Bolivia, comprising 25 percent of the population. The other group, Quechua, makes up 30 percent.
  1.   In North America, June 21 is the summer solstice, or the longest day of the year, and
December 21 is the winter solstice, or the shortest day of the year. What important
holidays or events occur during this time of year?
  2.   In ancient civilizations, the appearance of the sun and moon were important events
that helped mark the passing of time and the seasons. If you were to celebrate the
winter or summer solstice, what would you include in your celebration?