Bolivia: Aymara mark year 5520 with pledge to fight for Mother Earth

The Ninth Indigenous March, now camped at Yolosa on the edge of the Bolivian Altiplano, held a celebration June 21 of the Aymara New Year festival, Willkakuti or "Return of the Sun"—marking year 5520 in Aymara calendric reckoning. For the first time, the festival was jointly honored by the Aymara and indigenous peoples of Bolivia's Amazon lowlands who have joined together for the Ninth March under the respective leadership of the National Council of Ayllus and Markas (CONAMAQ) and the Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of the Oriente of Bolivia (CIDOB). Leaders of the two groups pledged to renew their commitment to fight for the protection of Mother Earth and indigenous rights in both the Altiplano and Amazon. (CONAMAQ statement [PDF], June 21)

A more official celebration was held at the archeological site of Tiwanaku, with government representatives presiding—the administration of President Evo Morales being the first to publicly embrace the ancient festival. Another gathering was held at Valle de la Luna, an area of eroded rock formations just south of La Paz, where Aymara amauta (elder) Lino Quispe led cries of "Jallala Tata Inti!" (Greetings, Father Sun!) as the first rays broke over the horizon at dawn. Offerings of coca leaf and aromatic herbs were prepared by hechicero (shaman) Calixto Quilla. Félix Mendoza of the Universidad del Tawantinsuyo hailed the occasion as "a new opportunity for cosmic renovation." The year 5520 is calculated on the basis of Aymara lore holding that five thousand-year cycles were completed in 1492, the same year that the Spanish conquest of the Americas commenced.

In the lowland city of Santa Cruz, celebrations were held for the regional equivalent of the festival, Lucero del Alba, marking the beginning of the planting season. (Terra, June 21; AFP, June 20)

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