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Episode 52: First "Special" Episode of 2021 - Bolivia's ¡El Año Andino Amazónico!

For 2021, I decided to do something new for Spanish Answers and incorporate three special episodes throughout the year that would focus on interesting holidays celebrated in Spanish-speaking countries around the world. They're kind of like one big cultural tip regarding a country's unique celebration. Today's episode is my first one, focusing on El Año Andino Amazónico, which is celebrated today (June 21st)!


What is it?

"El Año Andino Amazónico", or "The Andean-Amazonic New Year", was created as one of Bolivia's national holidays in 2010. It always falls on June 21st and celebrates the winter solstice; the day marks the begining of a new agricultural season while also signaling the end of winter. It used to be called "Año Nuevo Aymara", but was changed to "El Año Andino Amazónico". It is also called "Willakuti", which means Return of the Sun (Retorno del Sol) in Aymaran. Why does that matter? Well, because the holiday itself is an Aymaran celebration.

Who are the Aymara?

The Aymara are a South American indigenous group located mainly in the Altiplano region in Peru, Bolivia and Chile (and some in Argentina).

What is the Altiplano Region?

This area covers 40,000 square miles and is a high-elevation plateau (the average elevation is 12,000 ft.) located in the Andes. It encompasses parts of Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The Altiplano is one of the poorest areas in the world, with about 77% living at poverty line and 55% living in extreme poverty conditions (which is heartbreaking to think about).

Some cool things that are in the Altiplano include the Salar de Yuni (the world's largest salt flats) and Lake Titicaca (the world's highest navigable lake). (Now you have some places to add to your travel wish list ^_~.)

Some More Facts about the Aymara

In the Altiplano area, the Aymara grow some food, but agriculture isn't a big thing (the environment is not very good for large agriculture). They herd animals (including alpacas and llamas) and are known for their complex weaving (a skill that they can trace to pre-Incan times - which is pretty cool!).

The Aymara originally took over their area from the Uru tribe, and then in the 15th century they themselves fell under Incan control. The Spaniards then came in the 16th century and forced them to work in the silver mines (it was a pretty brutal time). Despite such long-lasting oppression, and more modern discrimination, the Aymara people have held on to their culture and way of life and thankfully seem to be gaining acceptance.

Nowadays, the women are known for wearing long skirts and bowler hats (they started wearing those in the 1920s). They also wear an aguayo, which is a cloth used to carry supplies or children and which is brightly colored. There are also Aymara women among the Fighting Cholitas, a group of indigenous women who professionally wrestle. These women fight for the sport, but also as a means of combating machismo culture and violence against women. And they do it while wearing their traditional skirts and pigtails. (Basically, they are AWESOME!)

Encouragingly, Bolivia's 80th President, Evo Morales, was also the first Aymaran President.

How is El Año Andino Amazónico Actually Celebrated?

Mainly by greeting the sunrise! (Well, and with some rituals and ceremonies, of course! ^_^) The main gathering place to greet the sunrise on June 21st seems to be the Tiwanaku ruins, which are by the southeast shore of Lake Titikaka in western Bolivia. These ruins used to be the capital city of a pre-Incan civilization known as the Tiwanaku Empire, which lasted from around 1500 BC to 1000 AD. This empire spoke Pukina and extended from Bolivia to Peru and northern Chile. When the climate began to change, bringing drought, the empire fell apart and Tiwanaku was abandoned. The Incas later populated the area around Lake Titikaka and drew the city into their own mythology. Today, it is still an important spiritual site for the Aymara. In fact, the site is so important that in 2000 UNESCO designated the ruins as a World Heritage Site.

On the 21st, the sun is greeted with rituals and gifts offered to the Sun and Earth (Aymaran deities). It's interesting, because while the Aymaran people have adopted Christianity, seem to have an interesting mix of Catholicism and their traditional religion involving nature worship.

The Schedule

The celebrations, according to, are lead by Andean priests and elders. Things begin on June 20th with a pilgrimage to the Quimsachata volcano group to make an offering to the earth goddess. This is followed in the afternoon with a Cultural Festival (including music) that goes all night. On June 21st, there is the Ritual Ceremony of the Great Willkakuti, located in the Kalasasaya Temple. This temple is the ceremonial center of Tiwanaku. Finally, when the sun rises at 7:25 am, everyone raises their hands to receive the energy from the sun's rays.

And that is pretty much the gist of it! (Since this whole episode is a cultural tip, I'm not going to do a separate one this week. But I do wish you a belated ¡Feliz Día del Padre! I hope you had a wonderful weekend celebrating fathers and the important role they play in our lives. ^_^

One Final Thing

While there are many benefits to learning Spanish, one of the cool things about it - related to this episode - are the insights you can gain to South American indigenous cultures that might not be as available in English. For instance, here is a video of a young lady teaching an Aymaran song with Spanish translations. She also has a video to help people learn Aymara just released for Father's Day, if you're interested! :) (Her name is Kullakita Nayra, and I highly recommend that you listen to at least one of them. Aymara is really cool - I enjoy listening to it - and I think it might even use clicks!)

Remember, learning a language is a lifelong journey.

¡Aprovéchalo, Disfrútalo y Compártelo!



Intro and Closing Music by Master_Service from Fiverr

Cultural Tip Transition Music edited from song by JuliusH from Pixabay

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