One of the biggest and most impressive celebration, a homage to the Sun, an important God in Inca Culture. The main part of the day takes place at the Ruins of Sacsahuaman, a beautiful natural scenery at 2 kms from Cusco of the large ceremony, an acknowledgment to the Sun.
The ceremony starts earlier the same day at the Koricancha (the Temple of the Sun, in the city of Cusco) and at the Plaza de Armas (the Haucaypata, in Inca times). Around noon the participants go to Sacsahuaman, together with the thousands of national and international tourists that came especially to see this impressive ceremony, where two llamas are sacrificed.
June 24th, one of the shortest day on the southern hemisphere, was organized by the Incas (possibly on June 21th), because they were afraid that the Sun (their Father) would abandon them (his sons).
The celebration of Corpus Christi used to be celebrated in the whole country, but the Fiesta is most impressive in Cusco. Fifteen saints and virgins, organized in several processions, arrive from different places to the cathedral of Cusco where to came to “greet” the body of Christ, sixty days after Eastern Sunday. During the day you can hear the sounds of the María Angola, the biggest Church Bell of Peru, built during XVI century by Diego Arias de la Cerda. The night before the main day twelve tipical dishes are prepared and consumed, including cuy chiriuchu), beer, chichi (tipical local beer) and bread.
The procession on the main day takes places at around 11:00am. The Plaza de Armas will be crowded with people that come to see the saints. After the procession, the saints go back to the cathedral and the representatives of the local communities come together and discuss local problems.
After seven days (el octavo), the saints participate in the procession again before going back to their places where they will remain for the rest of the year. Corpus Christi is a very colourful and traditional ceremony. For the foreign visitors an excellent opportunity to taste Peruvian traditional culture real close.
The Virgin of Carmen or Mamacha Carmen
Four hours from Cusco, in the town of Paucartambo, thousands of devotees hold festivals in honor of the Virgen del Carmen, known locally as Mamacha Carmen, patron saint of the mestizo population. The gathering, that raises the curtain on these days of celebrations is held in the main square, where troupes of musicians play their instruments while richly dressed choirs sing in Quechua. The setting gives way to a series of ingenious choreographies that portray events in Peruvian history.
For five days, dance companies in various costumes (Doctorcitos, Waca Waca, Sarjas) take to the streets to accompany the Mamacha throughout the entire procession through the main square, the church and the city streets. On the main day, the virgin is borne aloft in a procession to bless those present and scare away demons. The dancers take to the housetops, performing daring gymnastics, showing off their colorful Inca and colonial garb. At the end of the procession, war is waged on the demons, from which the faithful emerge in triumph. Finally, the gathering ends up in the cemetery to render homage to the souls of the dead.
All Saints Day
On these days, which are dedicated to the memory of the dead, Peruvians tend to attend Mass and then in coastal communities, head to the cemetery, bringing flowers and in the highlands, food to share symbolically with the souls of the dead. The worship of the dead was a common and respected custom during pre-Hispanic times in Peru, and part of that tradition, combined with Christian elements, still lives on today.
In the village of La Arena, in Piura, the locals head for the main square in the morning bringing their children dressed in their Sunday best. Also attending are relatives who have lost a very young child or niece or nephew. When these people meet a child who looks like the deceased, they give him or her small breadrolls, candied sweet potato or coconut and other sweets wrapped in finely-decorated bags, which are called “angels”. At night, the relatives hold a candlelight vigil in the cemetery until dawn on November 2. In Arequipa and Junín the bags of “angels” are replaced by breadrolls in the shape of babies, called t’anta wawas.
The Virgin of Candelaria or Mamacha Candelaria (Festival in Peru)
For 18 days, the highland town of Puno, nestled on the shores of Lake Titicaca at an altitude of 3,870 meters above sea level, becomes the Folk Capital of the Americas. The festival gathers more than 200 groups of musicians and dancers to celebrate the Mamacha Candelaria. For the first nine days, the mayordomos (those in charge of organizing the festivities), decorate the church and pay for Mass, banquets and fireworks displays. On the main day, February 2, the virgin is led through the city in a colorful procession comprising priests, altar boys, the faithful, Christians and pagans carefully maintaining the hierarchy. This is the moment when the troupes of musicians and dancers take the scene, performing and dancing throughout the city.
The festival is linked to the pre-Hispanic agricultural cycles of sowing and harvesting, as well as mining activities in the region. It is the result of a blend of respectful Aymara gaiety and ancestral Quechua seriousness. The dance of the demons, or diablada, the main dance of the festival, was allegedly dreamed up by a group of miners trapped down a mine who, in their desperation, resigned their souls to the Virgen de la Candelaria. The dancers, blowing zampoña pan-pipes and clad in spectacular costumes and outlandish masks, make their offerings to the earth goddess Pachamama. The most impressive masks, for their terrifying aspect, are those of the deer fitted with long twisted horns similar to the Devil, and Jacancho, the god of minerals. During the farewell, or cacharpari, the dancers who fill the streets finally head to the cemetery to render homage to the dead.
The Lord of the Earthquakes
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 Cuzco, 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 Cuzco. This celebration is of particular interest because it allows onlookers to get a glimpse of the fusion of Andean religions and Christianity.
The Cuzco 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.
The Carnavales in the Peruvian highlands are joyful and cheerful and take place during the month of February. A typical ritual is that of yunza, (umisha in the jungle, and cortamonte in the coast). A big, enormous tree is planted somewhere, full of presents and gifts. All the people are dancing around the yunza. The idea is, to cut the tree so that it falls down. The couple that gives the final cut before the tree falls down, is in charge of the organization of the yunza next year.
In the whole of the Peruvian country, you will see people throwing water to each other, not only on the main day of Carnavales but during the whole month of February.
the Lord of the Miracles
This procession, which gathers together the largest number of believers in South America, dates back to colonial times, when a slave, brought over from Angola, drew the image of a black Christ on the walls of a wretched hut in the plantation of Pachacamilla, near Lima. The image stayed on the wall despite several attempts to erase it.
This was to spark widespread devotion for the image, which survived intact on the wall despite an earthquake in 1746 which leveled all surrounding buildings. As a result of this event, worship of the image rose to new heights, until it became what is today the most widely venerated image in the city of Lima. The heart of the celebration is one of the largest processions to take place every year in the Americas, where tens of thousands of the faithful dress in purple tunics, singing hymns and praying as they accompany the image. Around this time of year, the streets fill with vendors of a wide variety of typical dishes and sweets, such as the famous Turrón de Doña Pepa. In October to commemorate the Lord of Miracles (Señor de los Milagros), Lima hosts the well-known bullfight season which carries the same name and is held in the centuries-old Plaza de Acho bullring. The season features some major bullfighters (toreros) from Spain and Latin America.