El Clima 3: Inti Raymi Welcomes The Solstice

Here is a third story from the recent El Clima from PCV Rachel Childs.

Normally, the town of Cotacachi is quiet—like most places in the Sierran region of Ecuador.

The bustling market full of bartering customers who want less for their bunches of bananas is the loudest part of the area, next to men shouting locations in the bus terminal.

“Otavalo, Quiroga. Siga, siga, por favor,” bus attendants shout out of the entrance doors.

But the terminal is nothing compared to the decibel level of the communities above Cotacachi. Especially when the summer solstice festival known as Inti Raymi comes around.

The third week of June marks the summer solstice and the beginning of the seasonal harvest. And that means celebration.

Every year, indigenous communities in los cantones in the province of Imbabura take Inti Raymi to new levels.

On this day, they pause from agriculture and community work to represent their town in full force.

Cotacachi’s main square fills up with spectators from neighboring communities which include La Calera, Morales Chupa, Morochos, Saint Nicholas, Topo and others.

Each community, mostly men and boys, wear chaps made of llama wool or cowhide or traditional white pants and shirts with blue ponchos.

Others opt for army fatigues and large, black hats covered in religious and spiritual symbols and walk to the center to represent their town.

The low hum of voices be- comes stronger as the participants of the parade get closer. Spectators gather on the pavement until the stampede floods into the main park.

Sun-soaked bodies are tired from the hour of marching, but do not show it because it is their time to make their community stand out.

Voices are so strong that people can barely discern the words as two or three communities take to the square at one time.

The marching representatives from each canton are at times more than 200 people with periodical stopping points during which time some marchers dance in a hurricane formation.

Flute and keyboard play- ers keep the two-step beat. When they tire, the people use their voices and feet.

A break after the first round allows for communities to share food made by older residents. Traditional dishes include rice, beans, chicken, beef, and soft, puffy corn known as mote.


Hydration comes from a fermented drink made from corn flour and at times, pineapple juice.

Often, the participants can be seen with clear bottles of liquor known as trago, a technically illegal moon- shine. As the day progresses, this results in several men falling to the ground or requiring their wives to hold them up.

The time for each group is restricted to one hour due to past feuds. Security lines up with riot gear and bombas, or pepper spray, ready in case of flying fists and rocks.

This year, twice, the bombas are used to disperse the crowd after rowdy behavior; a full fight briefly breaks out around 5 pm of the celebration.

Later, buses fill as families rush to catch the last few headed to smaller communities.

Other groups take to the pavement and walk or stomp back to their homes for a well-deserved nap or more celebration.

At night, the men and teens go door-to-door with instruments to continue the circle dance. Neighbors meet the eager musicians with food and drink to satisfy hunger and cure hangovers.

But at the end of June, the normal routine returns. Agriculture resumes, markets sell the harvested goods, and bus attendants continue to shout their destinations. The town and mountains of Cotacachi are quiet again.



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