¡Feliz Inti Raymi!
Posted by Lee Bruner KF8
In Cusco, Perú, there are numerous holidays during the winter months of June and July. Most recently the town celebrated Inti Raymi (the Sun Festival), an Incan tradition marking the beginning of a new year with the winter soltice. Many companies make up their own traditional outfits and march through the main square in a parade that lasts for around 12 hours.
I am currently working with Asociación Arariwa, Kiva’s field partner in the Sacred Valley of Perú. When I arrived last month, preparations for Inti Raymi were already underway: signs were posted around the office detailing the dress code (dark pants and red pocho) and practice times for the dancers who would lead our group through the plaza.
We met up at the office for the parade at 5 pm. I had some difficulty finding a pocho big enough for a 6’5 (195 cm) guy. With the help of three colleagues, we undid the hemming of one, and then stitched up the sides for just the right fit. We were group #149 out of 300 lined up on Avenida del Sol, slowly heading to the Plaza de Armas while music was blaring and fireworks were exploding overhead.
I wish I had actual footage of the dancing, but I was too busy trying to follow along with some improvised dance steps that a loan officer was teaching us moments before our debut. I was literally dancing (or attempting to, I should say) in front of thousands of people and camera crews through the main square – no joke! Despite the slight humiliation, it was a blast, and quite an introduction to Cusco!
Arariwa has been an excellent host since I arrived last month. Right now they are transitioning from a Pilot to Active Partner with Kiva so that their monthly fundraising limit can be increased. As a Kiva Fellows, thisentails doing borrower verifications, as well as looking for ways to integrate Kiva with their internal computer software and loan disbursement process.
This week I’ll be traveling to Pilcopata, a town in one of the most remote regions that Arariwa serves. Loan officers regularly travel up to 4-5 hours away from the Cusco headquarters to meet with communal banks, reaching entrepreneurs who might not otherwise have access to capital. Loan officers have also recently received training to begin a financial literacy program to teach clients about planning for repayments as well different savings methods.
I’m looking forward to seeing Arariwa’s work in more rural areas. And word has it that we’ll be passing through Paucartambo to catch a glimpse of the famous Virgen del Carmen Festival!