Calendar of Feasts – Cusco
The spirit of Peruvian Man, sculpted by art and religion, has given rise to a creative vein which crops up in an endless variety of shapes, rhythms and rituals. Year after year, more than 3,000 folk festivals, 1,500 musical styles and countless arts and crafts confirm that Peru is home to one of the most varied folk legacies on Earth. With this outpouring of artistic expression, Peruvians feed on their deep-lying roots to project a timeless alliance with nature and through rhythms and colors, strengthen their commitment to life and extend to visitors the hospitality and reciprocity that are so typical of Peruvian culture. The many festivals, even those of a religious nature, reveal the joyus nature of Peruvians, both men and women, their inclination to be sociable and share their hopes.
Festivals and rituals in Cusco: Cusco celebrates some hundreds festivals a year. Most of them are held in homage to a patron saint and are part of the Christian calendar adopted in colonial times, although they have blended with the magical beliefs of ancient forms of worship.
The celebrations of the Holy Week, Carnivals, Corpus Christi, and the feast of “Señor de los Temblores” (Lord of the Earthquakes), have special significance for cusquenians, becoming a great folkloric expression of their people.
The maximum expression of folklore from the people of Cusco is given in the Inti Raymi.
“Fiesta de Ollantaytambo” (Ollantaytambo’s Feast)
Ollantaytambo, Feast that celebrates the “Reyes Magos” (Magic Kings), religious processions, great folkloric dances.
“Fiesta de San Sebastián” (San Sebastian’s Feast)
San Sebastian, religious feast of the town’s patron, great folkloric dances and invitation of food and fruit.
Province of Canas, District of Yanaoca (Community of Checa). Cusco
A ritual fight among the people of the communities of Checa and Quehue who struggle against each other in war games to stimulate the fertility of the land. The winning community receives the larger portion of land. The men are armed with slings, leather whips, and sticks and dress in vests decorated with flowers. The women assist by caring for the horses, collecting stones, and cheering for the men with songs.
“Carnavales” (Carnivals) – The festival of Joy
Peruvian carnivals are marked by the festive character of Andean areas, which regularly break with their solemn traditions. Beyond regional variations, a common characteristic of nearly the entire highland chain is the ritual of the yunza, called umisha in the jungle and cortamonte on the coast. It involves artificially planting a tree trunk laden with gifts, around which the guests dance until it is chopped with a machete or an ax. The couple who make the final hack that brings down the tree will then both be in charge of organizing the yunza next year. Peruvians across the country are extremely fond of tossing buckets of water at each other during this festival, so onlookers would be wise to take precautions.
Province of Chumbivilcas, District of Livitaca (Toctopata) Cusco
These take place in Toqto, a town located between the Districts of Yanaoca and Livitaca. The fights last three days and represent the past when the people fought to receive more land. On the first day, people settle down in the place; the second day, one-on-one fights begin, and later, groups of five to ten men are formed. After eating and drinking, everyone fights on the third day, and when the games end, the wounded are taken care of and the communities perform the qhaswa (a party for both winners and losers)
Lord of the Earthquakes – “Señor de los Temblores”
The Black Christ and the Carmesí flower
2nd half of March-1st week of April
Ever since 1.650, when the faithful claim that an oil painting of Christ on the Cross held off a devastating earthquake that was rattling the city of Cusco, the locals have been rendering homage to the image of Taitacha Temblores, the Lord of the Earthquakes. The celebration is held on Easter
Monday against the backdrop of Easter Week in the city of Cusco. This celebration is of particular interest because it allows onlookers to get a glimpse of the fusion of Andean religions and Christianity. The Cusco Cathedral, where the image is kept, is built on the foundations of the ancient temple dedicated to the pagan god Apulla Tikse Wiracocha. The image of the Lord of Earthquakes is borne aloft in a procession through the streets of the city just as the Incas used to parade the mummies of their chieftains, high priests and supreme rulers. In the end, the dominating part of the celebration involves the ñucchu flower (salvia esplendes), used as an offering to the ancient gods Kon and Wiracocha. The same flower today is used to weave a crown for the Lord of the Earthquakes. This crimson colored flower, whose petals are scattered by the faithful over the venerated image, symbolizes the blood of Christ. The image used today was donated by King Charles V, and despite centuries of smoke from the candles and incense, no one has dared to restore the blackened painting, that has given the Christ a somber aspect and a dark countenance.
Province of Quispicanchi, District of Ocongate Cusco
A pilgrimage to the summit of MountSinaqara. Along the way, there is a procession, some dancing, musical groups performances, fireworks, and a symbolic alasitas market (works in miniature). This festival unites two traditions – Andean and Catholic – since it celebrates both the image of Christ that appeared on a rock at 4750 masl / 15.584 fasl and the worship of the Apu Ausangate.
“Lord of Torrechayoc”
Province of Urubamba, District of Urubamba Cusco
This festival began in 1860 when an enormous cross was placed in the snow, and the opening of a section of railway (Urubamba-Lares) was celebrated with a mass. Years later, the cross was carried to the city of Urubamba where they began a worship of it. In addition to a mass, the cross is carried in a procession with all its jewels. There are fireworks, parades of dancers, bullfights, and cockfights..
Religious-pagan feast, takes place in the country during the night, where the crosses in the hills are venerated, during the next morning these crosses are taken to the churches.
“Corpus of Coyllorite”
First week of full moon in June
Religious-pagan festivity, in which the peasant attend with their family and an image of the lord of Coyllorite, joining in a pilgrimage to the snowy mountain “Coyllorite”. The men climb to its peak and should return with big pieces of ice blocks over their back in order to receive blessings. Folkloric dances, processions. During the celebration of this feast it is prohibited to drink alcoholic beverages and also to have sexual contact, that is a common characteristic in the festivities of the Andes.
The largest native Indian festival in the Americas. In this mass pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Sinakara, on the day of the Holy Trinity, a group of villagers climbs snow-capped Mount Ausangate (6,362 m.a.s.l.) in search of the Estrella de Nieve (Snow Star) resting in large blocks of ice, that will then be taken by the villagers, on their backs to their communities, to irrigate their land.
June / first week”
The largest pilgrimage of all indigenous nations of the Americas. More than 10 thousand people arrive in Sinakara, at the foot of the Ausangate mountain (6362 m.a.s.l. / 20873 f.a.s.l.), to pay homage to a painting of Child Jesus. The ascent of a group of strong Queros to the snow-capped summit to seek the Star of the Snow (Qoyllur Rit’i) in the mountain’s heart is full of symbolism. They will take large blocks of ice on their shoulders back to their Quechua communities to water their lands with sacred water..
The festival of Corpus Christi has been celebrated all over Peru since colonial times, but reaches a
high point in Cusco. Fifteen saints and virgins from various districts are borne in a procession to the Cathedral where they “greet” the body of Christ embodied in the Sacred Host, kept in a fabulous gold goblet weighing 26 kilos and standing 1,2 meters high. Sixty days after Easter Sunday, the members of each nearby church bear their patron saint in a procession to the chimes of the María Angola, Peru’s largest church bell, forged in a copper-gold alloy in the sixteenth century by local artisan Diego Arias de Cerda. At night everyone gathers together, for an overnight vigil, where typical dishes such as chiriuchu (spicy guinea pig), beer, chicha and cornbread are served. At dawn the procession sets off around the main square, bearing the images of five virgins clad in richly embroidered tunics, plus the images of four saints: Sebastian, Blas, Joseph and the Apostle Santiago (Saint James) mounted on a beautiful white horse. Then the saints enter the Cathedral to receive homage, time after which representatives and authorities from various communities of Cusco meet in the main square to discuss local affairs. Finally, the delegations return to the churches amidst hymns and prayers. Participate all the towns and Cusco. Is the most important religious feast, in which all the saints and virgins images are taken from the churches to visit the image of Christ that is in the Cathedral. The processions, the street decorations, the fervor of the citizens are an indescribable show.
The most important folkloric expression of Cusco. (more details….)
July 25th – 29th
Province of La Convencion, District of Santa Ana Cusco
This is the anniversary celebration of the Province of La Convencion whose capital is Quillabamba. Every year, a Coffee Queen or “Miss Quillabamba” is chosen. There are also cockfight tournaments, motocross competitions, and the Cocla Fair, which features a music fest with national and international artists.
“Pachamama Raymi or Earth Mother Day”
The entire department. Cusco
On this day, the following festivals takes place: Pachamamaraymi in the District of Ccatca, Wataqallariy in the District of Maras, and Kinturaymi in Huasao in the District of Oropesa. This is an Andean ritual that worships and gives tribute to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) in a special ceremony called “payment to the earth” with offerings of coca leaves, chicha de jora, and huayruro seeds (mystical jungle seeds). The rite marks the beginning of the Andean New Year.
“Lord of Huanca”
Province of Calca, District of San Salvador. Cusco
The story of the Lord of Huanca began in 1675 when, it is said, Jesus Christ appeared in a cave to Diego Quispe, an Indian. His vivid story inspired one of the best painters of the time to reproduce the picture on a rock. The worship (recognized in 1779) reaches its climax on 14th September, and believers arrive from all over Peru and Bolivia in search of cures for their physical and spiritual afflictions.
“Feria Tikaranticuy” (Tikaranticuy Fair)
Cusco, ornamental, medical and wild plants fair a colorful show.
“Feria Santuranticuy” (Santuranticuy Fair)
A festival dating back to the colonial period, it now ranks as one of the largest handicrafts fairs in Peru. It is held every year in Cusco’s Main Square, where the painters of religious images and artisans offer a wide range of Christmas figurines to go with the Nativity scenes found in homes and chapels across Cusco.