Machaq Mara! Happy New Aymara Year!

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Bolivia is a mixed-race country in which nearly 36 ethnic groups represent more than 50% of the total population. That is why, in 2010, the President Evo Morales decided to change the status of the nation from Republic to Plurinational State of Bolivia. 

 

This June 21, different communities of the territory will celebrate, after the shortest day of the year, the awakening of nature and the return of the sun. In fact, in Andean beliefs, the sun occupies a determining place since it represents life and the creation of all things. It is a being in its own right who must be protected and venerated in order to benefit from its clemency and protection.

Thus, the sun is celebrated more than ever during the winter solstice in the southern hemisphere. Thousands of people in over 80 sacred places are expected to participate in this festival by mixing offerings, dances, traditional music, gathering and joy. These celebrations are a testimony to the perfect harmony and deep respect that unites the Andean man to his natural environment. For the Indians of Bolivia, the winter solstice is synonymous with prosperity, peace and new energy.

Among the important places that will receive the first sun rays this June 21, we find the antique city of Tiwanaku, but also the fort of Samaipata in the province of Santa Cruz, or the Salar de Uyuni in Potosi, and the archaeological site Incallajta in Cochabamba. These historic places are preparing to celebrate a new year in the Andean-Amazonian calendar.

It is the Tiwanaku site (Tihuanacu) which is preparing to welcome most visitors. Indeed, nearly 500 000 people are expected in the old city. Every year, the Aymara community, one of the largest in the country, meets there to pray to Pachamama (Mother Earth) and Inti (Father Sun) to bring them good crops for next year. This place is of particular importance to the Andean people, as it is here that these celebrations began hundreds of years ago. Therefore, it is considered the historic city of the solar divinity with many monuments erected in its honor, as the gate of the sun.

 

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The gate of the sun in Tiwanaku

 

The celebration begins at dawn when an amauta, a priest of Aymara origin, burns the offerings brought. Coca leaves, alcohol, or candy are placed on the coals in homage to the gods. When the first rays of sunlight illuminate the country, screams escape the assembly: “Jallala Tata Inta! (Greetings Father Sun!). June 21 is the occasion to participate in the Intiwatana (the attraction of the sun) and the rites that are practiced so that the sun does not move further away and approaches to give life.

Among the Andean peoples, the Aymara people is one of the most important with more than 2 million representatives today. The history of the Aymaras goes back to 200 BC. Settled around Lake Titicaca, they established their capital not far from there, on the old site of Tiwanaku. Agriculture and breeding were the pillars of his development thanks to his knowledge in astronomy and cosmology. New Year’s Day, as it is still practiced today, is an example of the knowledge these people have developed about the connections and cycles of the earth and its cultures, and of the sky and its stars.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, of Aymara origin, proclaimed 21 June as a national holiday. Since 2009, this decision has allowed Bolivia’s indigenous communities to celebrate Willka Kuti, the rebirth of the sun and the New Year in full respect of their ancestral traditions and beliefs.

 

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The Aymara people celebrating the New Year.

 


 

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