QUITO – Thousands of indigenous people from Cotacachi, in northern Ecuador, celebrated this year’s summer solstice and harvest with a traditional dance in the streets of this small town.
The dancers stomp their feet rhythmically and in an intimidating way to wake up Pachamama (mother earth, in Quechua), while the men protect themselves with hats and cowboy chaps to avoid being injured by their fellow dancers, who crack whips to demonstrate their fierceness.
According to the Andean worldview, this is the time of Inti Raymi, or Sun Celebration, an Inca festivity that also invokes masculinity and male bravery, Carmen Haro, a professor and historian from Cotacachi, told EFE.
Inti Raymi “is actually an Inca celebration” that spread throughout the Andean region, from Chile to Colombia, helping consolidate the Inca empire, Haro said.
After the Spanish conquest, Inti Raymi became a celebration to mark the harvest period.
During colonial times, haciendas forced communities to pay a tribute, which created rivalries between indigenous groups during Inti Raymi.
These rivalries have continued to this day, explaining why celebrations in Cotacachi can often end in fights, Haro said.
With this dance, young men seek to “demonstrate to their people and to others that they are brave,” Haro said, adding that “interethnic fights” are unfortunately spurred by the use of alcohol.
Local authorities, however, have launched campaigns to avoid violence during Inti Raymi, which appear to have had an effect.
What authorities are attempting to do, according to Haro, is to preserve tradition while eliminating violence, which is not a common trait in Andean communities.
The Cotacachi celebrations, which last a whole week, also include a women’s dance to “placate male energy,” the historian said.