All about the San Juan (Inti Raymi) festival (part 1)
The Feast of San Juan is one of the cultural manifestations of Quichua’s people, that, though expressed in different forms, has been practiced every year in several Andean villages of Ecuador. It is a cultural and historical heritage of the Tahuantinsuyo, known at the time as Inti Raymi celebration that took place after the corn harvest in Paccha Mama and Inti Yaya thanks for making grains produced in the year. In the Zuleta community the main event of the feast takes place on the Saturday closest to June 24, the day dedicated to the Catholic Saint John the Baptist.
Eve of this day the villagers prepare by forming groups and playing music and dance. They are grouped by family or friendship. Belonging to “a group” means committing to spend together at the party. These dancers are required to dance from house to house, from town to town, trying to show strength and courage.
The flying bottle rockets burst, telling the villagers that Saint John has arrived and inviting them to celebrate him. From Thursday afternoon, groups of peoples appear in Zuleta’s roads. Each group, led by their leader, the “Huma devil” (Diablo Huma), is singing different songs. The dancers does what they learned. Different groups begin to visit the houses. The most visited by dancers, are those with a light on and the door open, where beautiful castles full of breads, fruit and bottles of alcohol hang in the walls. Step by step, people visit most houses in the community, until they arrive to the home of the prioste, where they are also served with food and drink.
The typical “San Juanito” dance is performed in a circular way, as forming the round shape of the sun, stomping hard, “raising dust.” On Thursday afternoon, the founder waits patiently for the villagers who took the “Huarcu” last year and this year has to pay back double. After the delivery of the “Huarcu” patron saint is carried to the church of the community to “give him” a mass, fulfilling one of the duties imposed by the Catholic Church.
(Part II will be published tomorrow)