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Inti Raymi marks the Andean new year and the beginning of a new agriculture circle in the southern hemisphere.
South American Indigenous people, some of them part of the pre-Colombian Incan empire, are celebrating Inti Raymi, one of the most important Andean culture rituals which takes place every June 21, as the southern hemisphere's winter solstice marks the longest day of the year.
Once known as Wawa Inti Raymi, this festival was a form of worshiping the sun who was said to represent a main deity for the Tahuantinsuyo, an empire that covered the coastal regions of what are now Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia.
According to the historical information preserved after the Spanish conquest, the Sun Festival began to be held approximately in 1430 during the reign of Pachacutec, the ninth Inca emperor who ordered the construction of Machu Picchu, a citadel set high in the mountains of Peru.
In the Andean cosmovision, the sun was considered to be born again during the June 21 solstice, which made worshiping it something that would ensure good harvests in the following year.
"Today at 11:54 am Chile, winter solstice in the southern hemisphere, summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the Saywas, stone structures built by the Incas, identify and predict equinoxes, solstices and other astronomical events."
Bolivia's President Evo Morales celebrated the Andean new year Friday at Tihuanaco, an archaeological center located about 80 km west of La Paz.
During his speech, the Bolivian president recalled that the United Nations accepted the traditional Inti Raymi as 'the solstice international day', a recognition that is a result of joint efforts by Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia.
On the eve of June 21, which is currently a national holiday in Boliva decreed by Morales in 2009, hundreds gathered to receive the sun's first rays in Tihuanaco. The morning rituals began with ancestral dances and songs performed with drums and wind instruments.
In honor of the Pachamama, or Mother Earth, Indigenous peoples there prepared a great "Wajta", a table set on fire that represents llama fetuses and other small figures for prosperity.
At the Tihuanaco festival participants receive the first rays of the sun with outstretched palms to symbolically receive positive energies to start the new agrarian cycle.
In his thirteen years as Bolivian president, Morales has also celebrated the traditional New Year in Samaipata fort and the salt flats in Uyuni.
Each year, the festival of the sun is also celebrated in Argentine cities such as Cordoba, Santiago del Estero, Salta, Jujuy, Tucuman and Buenos Aires, where the Inti Raymi takes place inside the Costanera Sur ecological reserve June 22.
"In this urban version of the Inti Raymi, the participants wait for the sun to rise around a campfire," the local media Clarin reported.