Pawkar Raymi - the Blossoming Festival in Saraguro Ecuador

Saraguro in the northern end of Loja Province is a stronghold of Andean indigenous culture. This little known travel destination is a chance to experience one of Ecuador’s most authentic Quechua communities. Saraguro’s most colorful events happen during the four festivals that correspond to the annual solstices and equinoxes.

The first Quechua festival of the year is Pawkar Raymi during the earliest equinox falling on or near March 20th. Pawkar is Quechua for "blossoming," so combined with the word for festival, "Raymi," this is the blossoming festival.  Also known as "sisa pacha," which means "the time of flowering," the celebration honors Pachamama (Mother Earth) as she brings forth the first fruits of new agricultural growth in their farming season.

Pawkar Raymi also coincides with the Quechua New Year. The festivities and rituals begin on March 1st with pre-dawn ritual "Baths of the Inca" to clear out all of the preceding year’s negative energy. These public events are overseen by a designated organizer from the community - or Kapak - who has the honor for one year and the Yachak or shaman religious leader. This very busy holiday season also includes the election of female leaders or akllas. The new aklla delegates represent the land - or suyo - and its four cardinal directions: Chinchaysuyo (north); Contisuyo (west); Collasuyo (south); and Antisuyo (east). 

Another high point of the holiday is the collection of budding foodstuffs by delegations going from house to house. Called the Murutandama, this procession includes the “Mama Suplalata” who is the living representative of Pachamama. The resulting food collection becomes part of the ritual display - or Chacana (large cross-shaped figure) - made of fruits, tender grains and flowers in the community center before high noon at the culmination of Pawkar Raymi on the 20th. This offering of thanks to mother earth for her bounty is followed by a community meal or "Pinzhi" prepared from the Murutandama collection. Music, dancing, and the ritual naming of a new Kapak holiday organizer by the former for the coming year conclude the Raymi.

Saraguro is an excellent addition to any Andean travel itinerary in southern Ecuador at anytime of the year, including during their unique holiday festivals. For more information about planning your trip including English-Spanish interpreting and transportation, contact Life In Loja by email, or phone/WhatsApp at 593-098-674-5994.

Life In Loja is registered under Ecuador’s department of intellectual rights as of 2022.

Story: Wiki, B. Macas UNL, Apus-perudotcom, UN-GIAHS, CIDAPdotGOBdotEC, OrigenesEcuadordotcom, RedNarradoresEC.  Photo: Somos Saraguro


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