Winter Solstice Celebration

Trip Start Mar 01, 2006
Trip End Dec 01, 2007

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Flag of Argentina  ,
Thursday, June 21, 2007

What we knew before going was that:
- On the Tropic of Capricorn, just south of Huacalera, there would be a celebration for the Winter Solstice
- It was, at the same time, considered as the local festivities of Huacalera
- There should be food and drinks and some kind of feria

Not too bad, but the last point proved to be very false: there was nothing to eat. We could buy beer from the locals, and they gave us a bit of their local alcohol (we had been talking about alambics and distillation with some old-timer earlier in the day). There were two big fires, not many people, no stalls or artesanias, no light... It was just a local celebration, tourists were not expected!

We talked with the main organizer and his "brothers" and "sisters", they explained us that they were part of the Quechua nation, and that the festivities were under that sign. There they were of the Kolla ethny, which extends from Mendoza to southern Bolivia. They had the multicolored flag and explained all sorts of things about the Quechua culture (including it was the best in the world...), but I will report on that once I have clearer ideas, I need to read before I repeat anything said by the first shaman I encounter.

So they had already done the water ritual, on their way to the site, which is marked by a huge solar clock, and a place of high energy. The purpose of the initiated was to gather that energy and diffuse it to us the other participants. When we arrived some 20 people were well into the ritual of fire, which consisted in chanting and dancing around big fires, and of course we couldn't join cause we had no idea of how to behave.

And it was freezing cold. The organizer said we were lucky cause usually they get minus 5 degrees on that day. Well, lucky, yes. And we still did not know how to eat, nor how to get back to Tilcara, apart from a bus that was supposed to stop by at around 11pm.
The problem was, the earth ritual would take place at 1am, and Pacha Mama (mother earth) being a very important "deity" in the Andes, we did not want to miss that.

Going around begging for food, I stumbled upon a couple of Argentines from Rosario, who were on holiday in the north of their country. Cecilia and Gonzalo, in addition to being really nice and interesting, invited us to share their "mini" asado, and we accepted, so that now we owe them (mostly me, in fact), and they had a box of wine bottles too! We spend a delightful evening with them, and they also proposed to drive us back to Tilcara, so that we could stay with them and see the earth ritual.
We also talked with locals, around the fire and with a glass in hand, about their origins and spirituality, politics and history, but as I said I don't want to venture into these very complicated aspects for now.

The earth ritual took place at the said time. A hole had been dug, and offerings were poured in: beverages, food, herbs. Various master of ceremony talked, about the gathering and the ritual and the spirituality, every intervention punctuated with a loud AYAYA, that was in turn shouted by the assembly.
There was a sacrificial Llama too, thankfully we did not see what they did to him, although a lot of blood and its heart must have been involved at some point. We had left after the Tribute to Pacha Mama, fleeing a freezing night that was to end with the salute to the sun in the morning, followed later the next day with the wind ritual, the whole gathering culminating at noon, with the... ritual of the sun, yes.

A bit of general culture, from wikipedia, as I did have to look up what exactly the Tropics were:

"The Tropic of Capricorn, or Southern tropic, is one of the five major circles of latitude that mark maps of the Earth. It lies 23deg26'22'' south of the Equator, and marks the most southerly latitude at which the sun can appear directly overhead at noon. This event occurs at the December solstice, when the southern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun to its maximum extent."

On the June Solstice of 2007, there was loads of clouds, I was disappointed but I guess it does not matter!

Apart from all that, it was well worth being up and out on that night. The sky was one of the most beautiful I have seen in my life, the milky way was taking half of the hemisphere, someone showed me the southern cross, and there were dozens of shooting stars...
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