2013 Reading Ecuador

Reading 2013: Inti Raymi

July 2, 2013

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While in Ecuador, we were present during the first part of the Inti Raymi celebrations that take place in Cotacachi, Ecuador. (They also take place in other regions of South American among the Quichua/Quechua and Inca peope; Cotacachi is a main area for those in the Northern Andes of Ecuador.) I was delighted to learn that one of our neighbors during our time there had a copy of the ethnography, Inti Raymi: The Ancestral Dance of a Sun-Centered Liturgy, Cotacachi – Ecuador, by Ulpiano Garcia Cobos (translated into English).

I enjoy reading ethnographies, and it was certainly a treat to be able to find one so specific about the area and event that we were right in the middle of.

Inti Raymi Celebrations

Inti Raymi primarily covers the customs and practices surrounding the Inti Raymi festivities that take place each summer solstice, but it also provides information regarding the customs of dress, traditional roles, labor, and religious beliefs of the Quichua people near Cotacachi. The details were fascinating and certainly rounded out my understanding of the people during our brief stay.

Inti Raymi is essentially a time during which the Quichua people worship the sun and the corn given to them by the sun. For the people in this area, this is the most important time of the year. There is a lot of celebrating, a lot of drinking, a lot of dancing, and a lot of debt as a result. The people in this area are such kind and generous people, that it was hard to imagine them in this light. To a degree, some are kept in cycles of poverty due to the excessive poverty and drunkenness that occurs during this time.

In Cotacachi, this festival also includes what is known as “the taking of the plaza,” or “taking of the square.” This is intended to represent their triumph over their former Spanish oppressors, as they were once not permitted to enter this area. (Every city has a main plaza or center.) Varying tribes reenact mock fighting to be the ones who “take the plaza,” but the fighting becomes more than a reenactment, and most years there is violence of usually even death. Various days have different meaning, and after two or three days of dancing and partying, there are breaks of two or three days of rest, and the cycle continues into the middle of July.

The author, Cobos, was from this area, and so it was not the perspective of an outsider, but one who had both been an insider and then formally educated in a number of disciplines. This is a brief, but descriptive read, and a fascinating look at a culture caught in between long-standing tradition and indigenous beliefs and practices and the encroachment of modern, growing South America.

For those who enjoy ethnographies or learning about other cultures, this presents an interesting read. However, good luck trying to find the book. I’ve come across one Spanish site that I may eventually be able to purchase this book from.

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