By Yolanda Salazar
Tiwanaku, Bolivia, Jun 21 (EFE).- A sizable crowd of Bolivians stayed up all night at the pre-Inca archaeological site of Tiwanaku, where they rang in the Andean New Year and soaked in the first rays of sunlight of Year 5530 amid calls for harmony and unity.
Dozens of mainly young people braved the cold weather and made the trek to Tiwanaku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is located in western Bolivia near Lake Titicaca.
That site located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from La Paz is the epicenter of a new year’s festival known in Bolivia as Willka Kuti, which in the Aymara language means the return of the sun after the Southern Hemisphere’s winter solstice.
The people gathered there wore scarves, knitted wool hats and ponchos and even drank alcoholic beverages to combat the cold while waiting for sunrise on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, indigenous priests got ready for the start of the ceremonial acts by preparing the different offerings to Pachamama (Mother Earth).
Willka Kuti also marks the end of the harvest period and the start of a new agricultural cycle, and therefore is a time for giving thanks to Pachamama for the fruits of the earth and preparing for a new stage of food production.
Bolivian President Luis Arce and a key ally of his in Congress, the speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Freddy Mamani Laura, were among those who traveled to Tiwanaku to receive the energy of the sun.
But former President Evo Morales grabbed the spotlight when he made his arrival to shouts of “Evo, Evo,” and later took part in the Willka Kuti ceremony.
All of those present participated in the offerings to Pachamama, a ceremony that involved creating a bonfire to burn pieces of incense, multicolored figures representing petitions to the sun and a “sullu,” or stuffed llama fetus, which is believed to bring prosperity and health and ward off evil spirits.
Amid the ancestral rituals, the breaking of the dawn prompted the crowd to take off their woolen gloves, raise their hands and allow the new year energy to reach their palms.
“A new year that always brings hope to all of us, a new year where there are good omens (and) where we know there will be a new harvest and good planting,” Arce said in his speech.
“This new year means, brothers and sisters, ever more brotherhood, harmony, unity among each and every one of us,” Arce said.
Morales, for his part, posted a message on Twitter after the ceremony: “May the sun’s rays light our way! Happy Willka Kuti!”
Some of the participants used the occasion to ask Inti, the ancient Incan sun god, to fulfill their wishes for greater national harmony during this new cycle.
That was the case of Rene Cruz, who told Efe that he receives the sun’s rays every year to “recharge his energy” and ask for prosperity, harmony and unity in the country.
At least 222 ceremonial sites were set up this year nationwide so people in both cities and rural areas could take part in these rituals.
In 2009, the administration of then-President Morales named the celebration “Andean-Amazonian New Year” and decreed June 21 to be a national holiday. EFE