FESTIVALS IN CUSCO
Perú is culturally a very diverse country; hence you will witness a bunch of interesting party celebrations year-round in each region and all corners of the country. If you want to get a much closer experience with festivities related to the Inca culture, then Cusco city is the place to be. Here is a set of impressive festivals in Cusco that light up the country every celebration day, so don’t miss them on your next trip to the land of the Incas.
Three Wise Men (Reyes Magos)
In the city of Cusco, the day of the three kings or “bajada de Los Reyes Magos” is usually celebrated on the twelve-day after Christmas with presentations of several dances where kings themselves give gifts to Jesus in the nativity scene set in the plazas. This delightful festivity in Cusco is to memorialize the Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it is supposed to be when the three kings set out on the long journey from Persia to Bethlehem to greet the new king of the Jews more than two thousand years ago.
Essentially, this fair is the perfect opportunity for the craftsmen of Cusco to show and make a sale of their works. They bring all kinds of children’s toys and clothing for these dolls, such as little hats and little booties. In some way, these artworks have an Andean style. They work year-round to make the sales on January 6th at the Espinar square very near to the main square of Cusco, others at Tupac Amaru square.
FEBRUARY – MARCH
More authentic carnivals take place in the village outskirts of Cusco and the sacred valley, while the modern way of celebrating carnivals is in townships and Cusco city itself. Here is when young people, children, and adults go out to play carnivals, and even tourists join locals in throwing water-filled little balloons to wet others or with spray foams and colored flours. It is usually women against men in the streets, around the neighborhoods, and the main square of Cusco.
So, if you are touring through Cusco a week before Lent, make sure to leave everything in the hotel before going to hang out, and especially if you are young because they may wet you in the streets.
The Lord Of Earthquakes
If you are visiting Cusco a week before Easter or holy week, you can’t just skip the devotion to the Lord of the Earthquakes on the holy Monday. About eighty thousand devotees follow the procession in the main square of Cusco, which means that the plaza and surrounding streets become the fullest and busiest as the bells ring from the cathedral and with priests, authorities, parish groups; institution delegations, police, and military; throwing handfuls of Ñucchu red flowers that represent the blood of Christ on the image of the lord.
Originally the Christ of the Good Death but, since something supernatural event such a devastating as an earthquake struck Cusco city on March 31rst 1650, it is said the earthquake ceased when ultimately the Image of the lord was taken and placed at the front of Cusco’s cathedral. In memory of that event, the citizens of Cusco recognized him as the lord of the Earthquake or Señor de los temblores. Eighty years later, in 1720, a pest spread across Cusco, which indeed killed many people, then back again, the lord was taken out and held in procession for the plague to cease. Based on its supernatural powers shown, the christ became the Jury Pattern of Cusco.
If you want to spice up your trip, as long as you stay in Cusco, attend this big festival in Cusco.
Snow Star Festival (Qoyllur Rit’i)
A religious syncretism festival that takes place in the prairies of Sinakara mountain, beyond Ausangate mountain about 80 mi (ca. 129 km). from Cusco in the Vilcanota mountain range. The celebration lasts for about a week, and the date is movable, but usually in late May or in the early days of June of each year. The biggest pilgrimage of the Andes mountains is voted by hundreds of thousands of people, and pilgrims gather from eight nations. They all sing and dance to the lord of Snow star and venerate to the Apu Sinakara and mother earth to the beat of Chakiri (flute melodies for Qoyllur Rit’i).
According to oral tradition, this is where a strange western boy appeared to an indigenous local shepherd boy, then both played day after day just like kids do; meanwhile, animals were multiplying greater and greater. Within days, priests of Cusco plot a trap to chase the boys but astoundingly, a strange light struck around, and the shepherd boy died. And just then, on a side rock appeared the image of Jesus Christ which at this very present-day remains inside the church.
Inti Raymi is one of the most important festivals in Cusco, which puts Perú in the eyes of the world as it is a reenactment of an ancient Inca ceremony. A ceremony never lost, even though the Spanish invaders forbade it, alleging it was against the catholic religion. On June 24th, when the sun is furthest from the earth, and coincidentally farmer’s day, the Inty Raymi takes place officially in Saqsayhuaman archeological site above Cusco. The ceremony begins at the Qoricancha temple, where the richly dressed Inca leader is carried on a golden throne until the main square, accompanied by nobles and dancers cleansing the way and casting out evils, and so on to Saqsayhuaman.
Tourist companies have to purchase tickets in advance, and usually, they send their tourists on tour buses to their booked seats, but regardless of that, anyone can go and see the performance from around the archeological site. Many people attend this event because it is a holiday in Cusco, so you find plenty of stuff to see on the site. It starts at 8 in the morning at Qoricancha and finishes at 5 at Saqsayhuaman.
Festivity Of The Virgen Del Carmen
Virgen del Carmen or Mamacha Carmen is the patroness of Paucartambo province and also one of the most voted saints that gathers many people to this province, starting on July 15th to July 18th of each year. About nineteen dancing groups attend and perform in the main plaza and streets everywhere the Virgen is taken in procession. The fireworks display is a must-see event the night of the 15th, and the next day on July 16th, everyone sees the dancers celebrating and performing in their colorful dress with great joy and cheerfulness.
One particular spectacle of this celebration is the fighting of Qolla dancers against the Chunchu dancers, in what is called the traditional guerrilla. In it, both want to become the guardians of the Virgen. In the end, the Chunchus win the fight, while the Qollas are carried by the Saqras (devils) to the deepest hells. The Virgen is preserved for the town, and the Chunchus will always be there for protection.
If it sounds interesting, then travel to Paucartambo, the Cradle of great dancers, and mingle with the local people; and to top it off, see the Virgen whose statue was crowned by pope John Paul II in 1985.
A historical Inca rite of passage from boyhood to manhood that is staged at Saqsayhuaman archeological site on the third September Sunday. The main characters in this event are the schoolboys of the national Colegio Ciencias who practice and improve the acting for the great Warachicuy festival In Cusco about three months before. So what is it all about?
As it was in the past, it is an exclusive rite of the Inca nobility, which is performed through the passing of severe physical tests of courage, dexterity, and risk to guide young men to become adults and prepare for leadership and war. At the end of the event, the Inca himself awards the winners, and they are recognized as the son of the sun. It is also a Cultural expression equivalent to the Inti Raymi Festival, celebrated to the beat of the sound of Pututos (shell trumpets) and the Huaylillas (melodies).
All Saints’ Day And All Souls’ Day
Traditionally, people believe that the souls of people who passed away return home on November 2nd. And that the relatives have to serve what the person loved to eat when he was alive and place it to his / her favorite place or on a table set for prayer. That’s just a piece of what all saints and souls day means. In the city of Cusco and all of Peru, it is a custom to attend the cemetery for a significant if not a spiritual meeting with the loved ones; carrying drinks, food, and even playing sings they liked while they walked this earth.
In the city of Cusco, there is a colonial cemetery known as Almudena cemetery where in memory of the departed loved ones, all relatives clean the frame of the tombs and crypts a few days before November. Later, on All Saints’ Day, they attend carrying flowers and holy water, toys for little fellows, and all offer prayers for those who already sleep eternally, as it is thought according to the funerary beliefs in Cusco.
The cemetery is open year-round, but what a better time to visit it on All Saints’ Day for a very enlightening experience.
The Selling Of The Saints (Santu Ranticuy)
When Christmas comes by on December 25th, the night before, the main square of Cusco hosts people either Cusco citizens or countryside people, such as ladies with their kids on their lap that sleep near the portals to secure space for the next couple of days. They bring plants and flowers from highlands, tiny wooden stairs, or colored little rocks, and everything else for the decoration of nativity scenes and the birth of Jesus set at homes or in front of churches and plazas.
This traditional fair is an intangible cultural heritage where woodworkers, craftsmen, pottery men, imagines, silversmiths bring from their small domestic industry; allusive elements of the birth of Jesus and Christmas altarpieces.
It is quite interesting to witness a fair such as Santurantikuy in its most traditional essence of the Andean culture. If visiting Cusco at Christmas, don’t miss this event and all the rest of the festivals.