LA PAZ – Bolivia marked on Thursday the beginning of Year 5526 on the Andean calendar with rituals in more than 200 sites that are considered sacred by the country’s indigenous peoples.
The main celebration took place in the pre-Columbian citadel of Tiahuanaco, some 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of La Paz, which was attended by President Evo Morales, four Cabinet members, military brass, several diplomats, and dozens of the head of state’s fellow Aymaras.
The attendants awaited the first rays of the morning’s sun with their hands in the air.
Before dawn, indigenous priests said prayers and presented offerings at an altar dedicated to “Willka Kuti” (the return of the sun, in Aymara), which also signals the start of the planting season.
“Today, the sun ends a journey and starts another one. We celebrate the energy of ending one cycle and starting a new one, with new personal, family and community objectives throughout the country,” Morales said.
Other major celebrations were held at the Niño Kollo lookout in La Paz, where local authorities welcomed the New Year’s first sun beams.
The Andean calendar adds an estimated 5,000 years of Andean history to the 526 years since Columbus landed in the Americas in 1492.
In 2009, Morales’s administration dubbed the celebration “the Andean-Amazonian New Year” and decreed June 21 to be a national holiday.
Since then, rituals to celebrate the Andean New Year have become more important and have expanded throughout Bolivia.
During his 12 years as president, Morales has celebrated the Andean New Year in Tiahuanaco, as well as in Samaipata springs in the eastern region of Santa Cruz, in the Uyuni Salt Flats in the southwestern province of Potosi, and in his home town of Orinoca, in the western province of Oruro.