Cusco Celebrates Inti Raymi with Huatia

Yesterday the hills above Cusco, from Saqsayhuaman to the south, filled with families who sought a spot to make an over of clods, called kurpas here, and spend the day out doors, in the sun.  Others took advantage of the gathering of lots of people to make some money.

Near the sanctuary of the great Inca site where Inti Raymi was carried out, the area filled with families, each by the side of its oven.  The air filled with smoke and a festive air.

Here is the duality of Inti Raymi.  On the one side you find the staging of the pageant while, just across the road that is called Circunvalación as it drops down, people celebrate a good huateada, as they call it as the culmination of the Days of Cusco. The formal Inti Raymi is based on the writings of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega. As I recall, he also writes about how in Inca times people would come to feasts and bring food.  They would eat surrounded by others eating the same thing, each person in their family and community, though all together.

This is what people do by the side of the splendid Inti Raymi. They prepare and eat the same food, although with some differences, all together in a multitude.

The hills and fields on this side of Cusco fills for the huatia of Inti Raymi.  You will find people all over balancing clods carefully to make an arch for the oven’s door and then for the dome of the oven. You will also see people roaming looking for fuels.  Then everyone gathers around their oven while the fire heats it, with the potatoes exposed to the sun nearby.

When the oven is well heated, the potatoes are tossed in and the dome caved in.  More tubers are added and the walls are broken down in order to cover the food and cook it. People toss dirt on top to cover any small hole from which smoke might escape to keep all the heat in.

Now begins the careful accounting of how much time they must stay in there before the dirt and clods are raked away to reveal the cooked tubers.

While waiting, people converse, they listen to music, and they play to pass the time. In this way they celebrate their community of family and friends.

This is probably more important to the ordinary life of the people of Cusco that the Inti Raymi spectacle even though it is not hierarchized nor the subject of media attention yet. Eating hot baked potatoes, right out of the earth, with a bit of ground hot pepper sauce, uchukuta, is the way the 24th is celebrates by the people of Cusco. They honor this way their city, their identity, and the sun.

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