The Inti Raimy festival is traditionally held around June 21, in unison with summer solstice and coinciding with the harvest season. The tradition of the festival stems from the Incan Empire, during which times, Inti, the god of the sun was of the highest importance, superior to all other deities and being worshipped enthusiastically. The Inti Raymi was the biggest, most important, spectacular and magnificent festivity in honour of the sun and involved blood sacrifices and much drinking and dancing.
In Ecuador, the festivity of Inti Raimy only reemerged during the early 1990’s. Whilst initially the Spanish Colonial regime had replaced the indigenous festivity with their Catholic celebration of San Pedro, in 1990 a group of indigenous activist decided to reappropriate the date, and separated themselves from the festivities of San Pedro in order to create their own festivity in the name of Inti Raimy. During that period, Indigenous people increasingly voiced demands to retake control of their own cultural expressions, and the re-instalment of the festival was part of the process of recuperating their history.
Today, the Inti Raimy festival is one of the most important indigenous festivals for The Ecuadorian Kichwa people. It is a time to thank Pachamama for the harvest and to certify and demonstrate indigenous pride and strength. Whilst in most communities, Inti Raimy is a time for celebration and joy, the picture looks slightly different in Cotacachi, where during the ‘toma de la plaza’, the encounter of antagonistic groups in the central square, is known to lead to violent clashes.
On the night prior to the main festivity, people gather in their villages and move around from house to house to perform the San Juanito dance in the courtyards. The dance is conducted with groups stomping around in circles, first in a clockwise, then anticlockwise fashion, in adherence to the commands given by the leader. During the San Juanito dance alcohol is flowing, and it is known, that couples responsibilities of fidelity becomes slightly lessened during this night.