Qoyllur Rit’i is village of Q’ollpak’uchu is very important to Don Mariano. Of great significance is its location near the ancient Inca sanctuary of Qoyllur Rit’i, a site of pilgrimage and great importance for him.
“Qoyllur” means “Venus star” in the Q’echua language and “rit’i,” means “snow;” hence the name “Qoyllur Rit’i” translates as the name “Snow Star” to Quechua speakers. Located in the Willkanuta mountain range, which also includes the revered mountain peak, *Apu Ausangate, Qoyllur Rit’i is still highly sacred to the Q’ero and many other Inca descendants. Its location as a sanctuary near the closest point to the Star Relatives, most certainly predates the Inca. Qoyllur Rit’i was a sacred place of pilgrimage for millennia before Spanish Christians renamed it the Sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i in the 1780’s, assigning it a Catholic mythology. El Senor de Qoyllur Rit’i is referred to by locals as Taytacha or Father God. The Q’ero people’s faith on both the snow – symbolic of their beloved stars – and El Senor is unshakable. In keeping with the merging of the indigenous traditions and Christianity, the inhabitants of this region practice a form of religious syncretism whereby the two traditions have merged and co-exist harmoniously.
For the native people, and for thousands of pilgrims from all over the world who come to pay homage to the mountain spirit, the Festival of Qoyllur Rit’i on June 15th is a celebration of the The Pleiades. This cluster of stars disappears from view in April and reappears in June, marking Winter Solstice in that hemisphere.
This signifies a time of transition from old to new and celebrates the fertility of the upcoming harvest and New Year.
One of the Qoyllur Rit’i festival’s most lively features is the constant stream of colorful processions with dancers and musicians. In his youth don Mariano danced at the festivals for many years. His eyes still sparkle at the recollection of these memories of yesteryear. Thus is put into context his love of dance and merriment that is so evident to all who know him.
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