In the Southern Hemisphere, June 21st is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. According to the Aymara culture, this day marks the end of the harvests and the beginning of a new agricultural cycle. It is also known as the Aymara New Year, the day the Aymara communities gather to welcome the new sun and offer sacrifices to "Pachamama", Mother Earth, in order to ensure a prolific year to come.
While traveling through Bolivia, we got invited by a community in Potosi; an immense chance to learn about the Aymara culture and take pictures of their traditional clothing and celebrations. Here is a new type of blog post, a photo gallery of our favorite pictures from the Aymara New Year celebration. We hope you like them.
The story behind the photos - Aymara New Year
As we arrive around 4 am at the meeting point, a hill overlooking the town of Potosi, a few Bolivians have started bonfires and are already dancing and playing music. We walk around to take in the atmosphere and drinking Ponche, a typical drink made of a 96° alcohol beverage.
As the night goes on more families arrive. Groups are now forming and more bonfires are made. Soon, the entire hill is covered with Aymara people; dancing, mingling and drinking, waiting for the sun to come up. For once, the shy Bolivians invite us to dance with them, offer us Singani and coca leaves. They surprisingly ask us to take pictures of them and seem happy to share this moment with us. In between two dances, we try to catch our breath... at 4,100 masl, it's quite hard to jump and dance in circle!
Next to the little temple that can be found at the top of the hill, a Llama has been brought up. It will be sacrificed to Pachamama at first light. The Aymara who come from generations of farmers, believe that Pachamama, will provide them with abundance and growth. For this, they will offer the blood of the Llama and will welcome the new year with their arms outstretched, palm taking in the sun rays, while making prayers.
Around 6 am, the sun finally comes out from behind the mountains. At the same time the hands rise. Silence. Everyone is with Pachamama making their wishes for the new year. On this new day, the Llama's throat is cut and its organs taken outside of his body. Ceremonies and prayers continue for a few hours by throwing alcohol, cigarettes, coca leaves and llama foetuses in fires...
The sun is now starting to rise high in the sky and the locals are still playing music and dancing. It is time for us to go back to the hostel, catch some sleep before heading to the Uyuni Salt Flats.
"Aymara is one of the three most widely spoken languages in South America, along with Quechua and Guarani"
"Pachamama is the most important symbol for the Andean people. She is known in English as Mother Earth and is the divinity of fertility"
"Aymarans are known for their weaved clothing they wear around their shoulders to carry anything from children to supplies"
That's it, some of our favourite photos from our night/morning celebrating the Aymara New Year in Potosí. Have you celebrated the Aymara New Year? What were your favourite photos? Let us know in the comments below.
For more about Potosi, have a look at our post about how to spend time in the highest city of earth.
Want to see more picture of Aymara and their colourful clothing, check out our post about Tarabuco, the most authentic bolivian market.
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