Customs, Events, Traditional Food

Baked Potatoes (Huatia) Enliven Inti Raymi

Firing up the Oven

The twenty-fourth of June arrived, the day in which we celebrate Inti Raymi on the esplanade of Saqsayhuaman. Every year this event is carried out in Cuzco’s Jubilee Month after a wonderful month full of feasts and celebrations, lots of fun.

The month closes with Inti Raymi, but this day, the twenty-fourth has lots of significance. It is the day when we begin the Andean New year, and celebrate the solstice, even though it happened some three days earlier. It is also the Day of Rural People (Campesinos) which is code for Indians.

It used to be that on this day we also celebrated the feast of St John. In nearby Bolivia this feast is still celebrate and traditionally people would light bonfires, burn their old things, jump over them, and watch the smoke carefully for omens about the coming year. This day was known as the coldest day of the year, another way of saying the shortest.

Roasting Guinea Pig for the 24th of June
Roasting Guinea Pig for the 24th of June

Instead of the solstice being measured by careful astronomic observations, as the Inca did, it became tied to a specific day in the Saint’s Calendar and, as a result, to the contemporary calendar. Even though it lost its strict astronomic connection to the solstice, it still kept the memory.

Inti Raymi has now replaced this in Cuzco and the newspapers reported that none the less the statue of Saint John was moved to the high altar to celebrate his day. Photographs showed how the saint used to exit in procession. But now he stays in the Cathedral, barely making the movement from his normal niche to the high altar.

Huatia Backed Potatoes Ready to Eat
Huatia Baked Potatoes Ready to Eat

Inti Raymi has taken over. From early in the morning people prepare for the performance that will be carried out. People begin climbing up to the area by Saqsayhuaman from ten in the morning. While many people will enter the esplanade to see the show of the Incas, many others will stay around on the edges enjoying a delicious food from Cuzco we call huatia.

Huatia is made up of potatoes baked in a rustic oven made from clods of earth or of adobes that is made for the moment. In it people cook a variety of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and ocas, a different Andean tuber. The results are always accompanied by a delicious hot sauce, called uchu, of any color: green yellow, orange, red.

Huatia Day in Inti Raymi
Huatia Day at Inti Raymi

Not everyone can make an oven. You need to have skill and lots of practice. Still the huatia is so traditional that many people know how to make the oven. They go up to the area of Saqsayhuaman well before the show starts and make up many ovens. Then they heat them up so that they are ready for the foods to be put in them. Yesterday, they were selling the ovens for 30/S, about 12$US. Many others bought them and in this way helped out those who are artists and have the skill of making ovens so that they could make some money on this holiday.

Besides that, many other people sold beer, sodas, chicha, and frutillada (strawberry chicha). People stayed up on Saqsayhuaman until it got dark. Then little by little they went down and returned home after a day of fun and companionship. The people of Cusco enjoyed spending this holiday with their families.

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