The Inti Raymi, or “Festival of the Sun,” was originally a nine-day communal celebration featuring colorful dances, masks, joyous processions, live music and animal sacrifices to ensure a good harvest. The first ones took place hundreds of years ago in what is now Cusco, Peru, in the Andes mountain range during the Inca Empire’s reign in South America.
The ritual was banned in 1573 after the Spanish conquered the Incans and Catholic priests deemed it to be pagan. However, Inti Raymi continued in an underground form and even underwent an open revival in 1944.
Now it is an annual festivity that coincides with the summer solstice and the Catholic feast honoring St. John the Baptist. And due to heavy migration from South America over the past four decades, various versions of Inti Raymi take place in New York City.
The five-hour event will start at noon with a ceremony welcoming summer. Then such groups as Ayazamana Cultural Center, Ñukanshick Llakta Wawa Kunas, Pakarina Huambracuna NY and Wayra Pamushkas will wear colorful clothing and perform time-honored dances to celebrate their ancestors. This is not a contest and there are no bragging rights. In fact, the different clubs will cheer on each other and encourage the youth groups to have fun — and there will be no animal sacrifices.
‘We’re preserving a tradition,” said Erika Campoverde, a native of Cuenca, Ecuador, who is a member of Ayazamana. “It’s dance. It’s fun.”