Every June, thousands of tourists enter the beautiful historical center of Cusco, confused at the rainbow flags proudly resting in the hands of citizens young and old, above government buildings, and on pins. An eight-color rainbow is Cusco’s official flag because the rainbow is symbolic of a gift of sun from Incan gods. The flags are flying proudly everywhere for “Cusco Month.”
Starting the first week of June, kids who are barely old enough to walk in a straight line dress in colorful traditional dresses with sparkles, pom-poms, masks with Pinocchio-length noses and empty cerveza bottles grace the streets of every major plaza in the city. Each dance represents a theme, telling a story of the past and encouraging Cusqueñians not to forget their history. For the month of June, we had to walk ten minutes out of the main city to find a cab to take us to class. But, amidst the inconvenience lies an overwhelming excitement from parents, siblings, and children at watching their beloved family member participate in festivities.
Although we vowed to participate last year when Caroline and Larkin recounted the fun events of the month, Lydia and I hit a sick spell, and we hadn’t seen a single dance in the plaza. Thankfully, our kids at Santoni saved us by telling us about their simulation ceremony last Friday. They were extremely excited about the opportunity to share their day with us, and we were excited that we could finally support one of the celebrations at their school! When we arrived, we saw our kids decked out in their Cusqueñian ponchos, holding flags that represent the four main provinces of Cusco in the past.
When the ceremony started, we saw a man summon Pachamama, Mother Earth in Quechua, to start the festivities. Kids dressed as birds, hunters and gatherers, and princesses pranced along the dance floor for about 45 minutes. Though none of our kids participated and we didn’t exactly understand the stories, we were so joyful to have experienced a mini Inti Raymi. We learned this tradition ensures that the kids will never forget their history or native language, Quechua. Each class presents about a provinces’ traditional food and clothing. Through these dances, full-month celebrations, and class presentations, Peruvians pass along the history of Cusco.
On June 24, Inti Raymi officially ended Cusco Month. The impressive and well-rehearsed dancers made their way through three major parts of the city throughout the day, performing various dances in each location to tell the city’s history. Everyone – locals included – sported the well-known alpaca wool sweater to show Cusco pride.
Although we were a bit exhausted from a busy week on heavy antibiotics, we couldn’t sit out the biggest holiday of the year! We made our way to the last stop of the tour, sacred ruins called Sacsayhuaman, and found a spot to view the dances. It was amazing to see the dancers showcasing their history, and the crowd was buzzing with anticipation. We didn’t stay long, but we got the gist of the day: Cusco’s rich history and beautiful people make the city an extremely exciting place to be in June.