"Every planet has its own weird customs. About a year before we met, I spent six weeks on a moon where the principal form of recreation was juggling geese. My hand to God. Baby geese - goslings! They were juggled."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Inti Raymi in Ibarra

This weekend I was invited by a school teacher in Pucara to join her and her family at their house in Ibarra to see the city's version of Inti Raymi.  I jumped at the opportunity, but the day  I was to leave for Otavalo, I woke up with gripe (a cold).  No matter - I couldn't let that stop me.  Inti Raymi is the indigenous peoples' celebration of the summer solstice and seems to be celebrated much more intensely up in the northern parts of Ecuador than in Chimborazo.  Some communities (like in Cotacachi) have a reputation for fights breaking out.  In fact, people look forward to these fights to beat the shit out of each other.  They bring whips and backpacks full of stones and the police can't really do anything to stop them.  However, I was told over and over again the festivals in Otavalo and Ibarra are much tamer.

When I arrived Friday afternoon, I met the family and went for a drive to a lake called Yahuarcocha, which means 'lake of blood.'  A legend says that in the 15th century, invading Incas battled with the indigenous people of this area.  The Incas won, and set to work killing all males over 12 years of age - about 30,000 people.  They apparently did the killing atop this rock you can see when you drive all the way around the lake.  The Incas then threw the bodies into the lake which, little by little, turned the lake red.

The innocent-looking rock upon which apparently thousands of people lost their lives.

The next day, my gracious host had to race to Quito and back so almost needless to say, she didn't make it back to Ibarra until around 8 p.m.  So I just hung around her house making use of the constant internet access.  Around 7:30 p.m. I joined the rest of her family at the grandmother's house where they dressed me in a skirt which only a small group of local indigenous people wear.  The skirt was a lime green color and the top shirt was way way too big, so I felt a bit funny and wished I knew to bring my other clothes from Chimborazo.

We took a taxi somewhere - I have no idea where - and waited outside in a crowd for a while.  Again, no idea why.  Then a blue city bus came and whisked us a group of us costumed dancers away somewhere else that I don't know.  But this is where it all started.  The folk band struck up (they were very ridiculously good) and led us into the courtyard of a random house with some San Juan tunes.  Several circles around them were formed and we began dancing more or less in line.  Every so often a cup of trago (alcohol) or cup of less-than-appetizing chicha (fermented drink) would appear in your hand to down.

I love this picture.  None of my pics turned out particularly clear but this one was actually colorful and alive.

Someone blew a horn, and then we were all pouring back out to the street.  We did this throughout the night - dance and march around in the street, then end up in someone's courtyard dancing in circles in a tiny space.  
It was exhausting.  We got back around 2 a.m. after dancing constantly for five hours.  And now my cold is way worse, I have a headache, and any minute now I'm heading back to site.

Dancing in a parade with 'chivos' (the men in fur chaps with colorful, creepy headdress) leading the way.

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