LA PAZ – On the Southern Hemisphere’s winter solstice, Bolivian Indians on Tuesday celebrated the “Return of the Sun,” marking the new year 5524 in the Andean and Amazon cultures.
The main Andean Amazon New Year’s celebration occurred at the Tiahuanaco archaeological site, also known as Tiwanaku, located 70 kilometers (44 miles) northeast of La Paz, and it was replicated at some 200 sacred sites in the Andean and Amazon regions.
Indigenous people in these regions tally their calendar by adding together five 1,000-year solar cycles plus the 524 years since the arrival of Europeans in the Americas in 1492.
Rituals were performed at Sun Island in Lake Titicaca; the Inca fortress of Samaipata in eastern Bolivia; the Uyuni salt flats in southwestern Bolivia; the Valley of the Moon in La Paz; and other places deemed sacred by Aymaras, Quechuas and Guaranis.
President Evo Morales was prevented from attending the festivities at Tiahuanaco because he is recovering from knee surgery.
Morales, the Andean nation’s first Indian head of state, organized a celebration at his residence with Aymara shamans, welcoming the sun’s first rays with raised hands.
For Aymaras, as well as other ancient civilizations in the Americas, like the Incas, Aztecs and Mayans, the sun is a deity that gives direction to their lives.
Aymaras see June 21 as the start of a new cycle for both their calendar and daily lives.
This date marks the end of the harvest and the start of a series of religious celebrations to honor the god Inti (sun) and goddess Pachamama (Mother Earth) before planting begins in September.
Bolivian historians say the Tiahuanaco culture began about 1,000 B.C. east of Lake Titicaca and lasted until the 18th century.