Aymarans Raise their Hands to the Sun

Created: 2013-06-25 10:17 EST

Category: World > South America

With the winter sun breaking over the Andes, indigenous Bolivians welcomed the Aymara New Year 5521 from east to west, raising their hands to the first rays of the day.

The main celebration took place amid the ruins of the ancient city of Tiwanaku -- on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca -- with religious monuments such as the Akapana Pyramid and the Ponce monolith creating the backdrop for the ceremonies.

The Aymara believe the father of the sun, "Al Tata Inti", gives its warmth to Earth on the New Year, heralding the onset of spring. In pre-Hispanic America, indigenous people depended on agriculture, and many of their rites are aimed at receiving the blessing of the gods to ensure an abundant crop. Quechuas and Aymaras hold two festivals annually for sowing and harvesting, which coincide with the summer and winter solstices.

In 2011 Bolivia President Evo Morales, an Aymara and Bolivia's first indigenous president, christened the Aymara New Year the "Amazonian-indigenous New Year" in an attempt to broaden its appeal to include more of the country. This is the third year the date has been a national holiday in Bolivia.

A tourist Freddy Misky Mamani, said the ruins of Tiwanaku held great meaning for him.

[Freddy Misky Mamani, Tourist]:
"This is the most sacred place for me. I come to ask Pachamana and Tata Pacha, because I'm a devout follower of them, to concede everything I ask for with faith. If I ask for favours without faith, that would be like a taunt, something I would never do."

Tiwanakota religious leaders say according to the rocks in Tiwanaku, the Aymara people are currently at the beginning of a period of reconnecting with the spiritual world.

The year 5521 is determined by assessing the five Aymara cycles which each lasted 1,000 years, the last ending in 1492 with the beginning of the Spanish conquest.

Similar ceremonies are held in the northern hemisphere on this day where people celebrate the summer solstice in locations such as the U.K.'s Stonehenge.