Inti Jiwaña

Fast forward three years, three months, and 23 days, when I join an Astronomical League tour through Spears Travel to Bolivia, “the last authentic country”. All the usual suspects were stampeding to South America, including groups with Travel Bug, Sky & Telescope, and Scientific Expeditions.

On October 27, 1994 I flew from Miami on an overnight flight to La Paz next to a cranky gentleman in a grey suit who was irritated about what he perceived to be the abundance of “students” on the flight who were discussing, loudly, degrees above horizon, rock collecting, and whether or not they remembered to bring duct tape. Seated throughout the plane were others of my kind: amateur astronomers. I spotted them immediately in the terminal without a field guide, and some were aggressively On The Spectrum. (I boldly introduced myself to a couple—“pleased to meet you, I’m Rhonda from Oregon,” said I. The woman glowered and replied, “how do you KNOW you’re pleased to meet us? You haven’t met us yet.” This is going to be a long vacation.)

“Intijiwaña”—the Bolivian slogan for the TSE of 1994—means “Death of the Sun”, and reflects the myth imagery and extreme behavior of the average pre-Colombian Andean (who also enjoyed savage games involving decapitation). It was a puma spirit that was once believed to cause all the trouble by swallowing the sun, who must be chased away by screaming children brandishing sticks and beating other animals. (Like a dog who is reinforced to bark at the mailman because the mailman always leaves after a couple of minutes, the Andeans learned that this technique is 100% successful.) In some areas the eclipsing sun was thought to be languishing near death, and native peoples lit wildfires to warm the Earth while the sun was on sick leave. CALM DOWN Bolivia.

Above: Death of the Sun

Below:

Path of totality, 1994

Ancient Bolivian eclipse causes widespread panic

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