QUITO – The sun is viewed as God by the indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Andes, who celebrate the summer solstice with a feast of thanksgiving for the harvest and life itself.
In the town of Cotacachi, in Ecuador’s Imbabura district, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Quito, celebrating villagers stamp their feet in rhythm to drums and “pingullos,” a type of flute, to thank both the sun and the earth in a festival lasting until June 30.
The ancestral communities comprising this picturesque town in the Ecuadorian mountains dance for four days, in groups, with a hypnotic and contagious stamping that is strong and rhythmic.
“This is the feast of the sun, Inti Raymi (the Sun God in the local Quechua language),” said Pedro de la Cruz, an indigenous lawmaker born in Cotacachi who noted that the ancestral festival coincides with the saint’s day of Peter and Paul.
The Spanish conquistadors “imposed saints’ names on us, but this is a festival of unity, comradeship, friendship and also rebellion,” said De la Cruz.
“It’s a dance to honor the sun, and so it’s circular,” the lawmakers said, adding that the display is not an act of folklore. “We’re not folklore, we’re a living culture,” he said.
Carlos Enrique Sanchez, from the Santa Barbara community, in Cotacachi, said that this is a “very sacred festival, for Mother Nature, to celebrate the harvest.”
In past years, members of the different Indian communities had come to blows in the town square during the celebration, and sometimes people were killed, but Sanchez said all that is in the past and now it’s a “dance of unity” whereby the Andean people reaffirm “their culture and identity.”