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Bolivians celebrate subdued Andean New Year amid pandemic

La Paz, Jun 21 (EFE).- Bolivians on Monday raised their hands to the first rays of sunlight in celebration of Andean New Year 5529, gathering in reduced numbers at different sacred indigenous sites while heeding Covid-19 protocols.

The festival of the Return of the Sun, known as “Willkakuti” in the Aymara language and “Inti Raymi” in Quechua, was celebrated in places like Mirador Killi Killi, a hill offering a panoramic view of La Paz where dozens assembled.

Wearing masks over their mouths and noses, people awaited “Tata Inti,” or Father Sun, against a backdrop of traditional music and dances and rituals of gratitude for “Pachamama,” or Mother Earth.

Two offerings were made at the Killi Killi lookout point, one by the La Paz mayor’s office and a second that had been prepared by the “amauta” (indigenous sage or wise one in Quechua), Elena Martinez.

“We’re here celebrating and receiving the first rays of the sun to commemorate this Andean, Amazon and Chaco New Year 5529,” La Paz’s culture secretary, Rodney Miranda, told reporters. “We didn’t (organize) a very big event because we’re going through a difficult time in terms of health.”

“The important thing is to recharge our energy, recharge our ‘ajayu’ (soul),” he said, adding that the Andean New Year marks the “closing of an agricultural cycle and the start of a new one” and should be approached with “clean emotions.”

“Today we ask God, Pachamama, Tata Inti and all the supreme beings to protect us and give us health,” Miranda added.

On the other side of the hill, Martinez prepared an offering with traditional sweets, medicinal plants, incense, aromatic vegetable resins and colored wools that she placed on a pyre minutes before sunrise.

Tata Inti’s message this year is to “continue on with more strength, more confidence, more health” after a year of pandemic-triggered paralysis.

A Bolivian government delegation led by President Luis Arce and Vice President David Choquehuanca traveled to the pre-Columbian citadel of Tiwanaku, which is located nearly 80 kilometers (50 miles) from La Paz and is the traditional focal point of the country’s Andean New Year celebrations.

“We come with much humility, with much respect for our ‘achachilas’ (Andean deities), with much respect to ask them for a great deal of health for the Bolivian people on this Andean Amazon New Year,” Arce said.

This strength is needed now more than ever, according to the president, who added the delegation had come “with much faith” to Tiwanaku to ask the deities for health and economic progress.

The celebration marks the beginning of a new agricultural cycle (sowing season) and coincides with the Southern Hemisphere winter solstice, the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year.

The name of the festival has evolved to promote greater inclusiveness. It was first celebrated a few decades ago in Tiwanaku as the Aymara New Year, but the name was subsequently changed to Aymara-Quechua New Year and then Andean New Year.

In 2009, then-President Evo Morales’ administration changed its name to Andean Amazon New Year and made June 21 a national holiday.

The name was then changed once again in 2017 to include the people of the country’s Gran Chaco region. EFE


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