In general, tourism in Peru does not make the most of certain attractions which could increase the number of visitors to our country for reasons other than archaeological sites or Inca history. In this case, we suggest using the festivals as an important part of a visit, which are notable because folklore is best appreciated in its authentic form, rather than in a theatre, restaurant or cabaret. This aspect, which can be included in the concept of “vivencial tourism”, should be approached from an ethnological perspective, meaning with respect for the particular customs of each place and without expecting people to behave in a special way because there are visitors of different nationalities present.
For this suggestion to work well, it is necessary to understand that some festivals do not have fixed dates in the year. In many cases this is because the festivals correspond to the lunar calendar and are only celebrated in the week of a full moon, such as Qoyllur Riti’i, Holy Week, etc. It seems that because of this variation of dates each year, tour operators do not dare to program them in advance. Because of this we have made a list of the important festivals in the southern Andes which can be visited, and after the calendar there are some tips about how to make the most of them. It is important, anyway, that tourists time their visit to Cusco to coincide with one of these festivals.
In the district of San Sebastian, 5kms south of Cusco. It is called Perachapchi because the pear harvest is also celebrated at this time. It lasts for one week, but the main event is the day before (the dancers arrive in the afternoon and there are fireworks at night) and on the 20th, 10, 15, and up to 20 groups of dancers participate in the procession. For the finale there is a Gallotipi in which someone wins a cock by being the first to yank the animal down from where it is hanging.
Mamacha Candelaria. Patron of Puno
The procession is on the 2nd of February but on this day there are not many folkloric dances. The festival is divided in two. The country festival (3rd February) and the urban festival (the eighth day which is always on the following Saturday – although sometimes it is not the first Saturday to follow as it is very close to the 2nd February, for example in 2006 the 2nd February was a Thursday so the eighth day was not celebrated until the 11th). The country festival draws in many communities who compete at typical dances in the Puno stadium on the Sunday. These dances are with shiny costumes (Morenada, Diablada, Wakawaka, etc.). All the groups dance in front of the Virgin de la Candelaria on Monday (there were 64 groups in 2003) and they end up dancing in the cemetery. The festival ends on Thursday with the cacharpari.
Qoya, Calca, Cuzco
Carnival is celebrated throughout Peru. However in the town of Qoya, an hour from Cusco, they organise traditional dances which are specific to this time of year. As it is a festival which is celebrated 40 days before Palm Sunday (the beginning of Holy Week) which is a lunar festival and is therefore mobile, here is a list of the Carnival Sundays for the next years: 2006, 26th Feb. 2007, 18th Feb. 2008, 3rd Feb. 2009, and 22nd Feb.
Close to Huayllabamba and Yucay there is a festival for Baby Jesus which is very important
Lord of the Earthquakes, Cusco
A great fervour is awakened in the city when the Taytacha, the Lord of Cusco comes out in procession on the Easter Monday which, as it is a lunar festival, varies from year to year. It is truly impressive when the procession returns to the Cathedral and the sun begins to set, to see how the people in the Plaza kneel to receive a blessing from their god and protector while the full moon appears behind the impressive Cathedral. In 2009, it will be on the 6th April.
Cusco and all the towns in Peru
The procession of the Holy Sepulchre is celebrated throughout Peru. In Cusco it is special because the procession leaves from each neighbourhood at a different time so that it can be seen in various churches until late at night. Without the pomp that these celebrations are famous for in Huamanga, Ayacucho, it is an attraction for those coming to Cusco and other towns at this time of year.
2nd and 3rd May. Cusco and all the towns in Peru.
On the night of the 2nd May crosses are venerated in all of Peru. In many towns, they are taken down from the hills and worshiped in the chapel or church. In Cusco there are many that it is not possible to move, so the worshipers of each one get together as the sun sets to dress it and spend a few hours standing watching over the candles lit in its honour.
Ascension Sunday is an important Catholic festival. Among those who celebrate it with great respect and lots of dances are the inhabitants of Takile Island on Lake Titicaca. The festival is the Wednesday and Thursday before Ascension Sunday which will be in 2006, 25th May. 2007, 17th May. 2008, 1st May. 2009, 21st May.
Monday and Tuesday of the week of the full moon 60 days after Easter. Cusco pilgrimage on foot to the Sinakara snow capped peak where the church houses an enormous rock with a miraculous image of Christ on it. 6 hours from Cusco on the road towards Puerto Maldonado, vehicles leave people in Mahuayani to climb up the 8kms. It is necessary to take camping equipment. It is very cold on the way to the sanctuary. In 2009 the festival will be on the 8th and 9th June.
Thursday of the week 60 days after Easter. Cusco.
Important Catholic festival which has fused with a great Inca festival, after the procession of the Body of Christ there is a procession of the 15 saints from the different churches in Cusco at around 1pm. After the procession, there are parties in various plazas around the Cathedral where the Saints have been since the day before (the entrance of the Saints is also an interesting sight, the day before from the Santa Clara church). The procession of the Saints is repeated on the eighth day, the following Thursday and on the following days you can see the return of the saints to their churches until Sunday when the Virgin de la Almudena returns. The day of Corpus people also celebrate the harvest with many products in the Plaza San Francisco and with typical food in Calle Saphi. In 2009 the celebration will be on the 11th June.
24th June. Cusco.
Great representation of the Inca’s Sun Festival. The music played by groups from Puno at sunset in the main plaza is particularly good.
29th June. Cusco and Ichu, Puno
In the San Pedro church beside the market in Qascaparo in Cusco the apostle is celebrated.
16th July, Paucartambo
Although it is celebrated in Cusco, the largest celebration is in Paucartambo, 3 hours from Cusco on the road towards Manu National park. It is best to arrive on the 15th and the festival does not end until the 18th. It is difficult to find accommodation but it is one of the most entertaining festivals in the area.
Santa Ana. Cusco.
In the Santa Ana church, in the north of Cusco, the Saint is celebrated with great pomp and circumstance.
The neighbourhood of Santiago in Cusco has a church in its honour where there are great celebrations on this day. The best parties are held in Huancayo.
San Cristobal. Cusco.
Leaving Cusco to the East, at the foot of Saqsahuaman, in Colcampata, there is a celebration for the Patron Saint of Drivers on the Sunday closest to the 31st July. There is a procession through the neighbourhood, together with San Antonio, patron saint of pig-farmers.
The Virgen of Copacabana is worshipped on this day. Copacabana is very close to the border between Puno and La Paz. It is necessary to reserve hotels (there are a lot) in advance for this date because it is a very special day of worship for Bolivians and people from Puno.
Mamacha Asunta, Cusco, Calca, Qoya, Tiobamba
The Virgin of Asuncion is very closely related to the sowing of the seeds which begins shortly afterwards. As well as being the patron of Arequipa and Huanuco where there are grand celebrations, she is also patron of the Cusco Cathedral, although the dances are held in Calca.
Mamacha Nati. Cusco.
The Virgen of Nativity is the patron of the Almudena church next to the cemetery in Cusco. Its most famous pilgrimage is that of Chincheros, close to Andahuailas, but the procession in Cusco is impressive above all since the people from Puno living in Cusco have adopted her as their patron and so there are as many dances as for the Candelaria.
Señor de Huanca, San Salvador, Cusco.
The Sanctuary of Huanca is located close to Pisac, upriver on the Vilcanota River, and contains a large rock on which an image of Christ appeared. Many arrive on foot from Cusco, but it is also possible to get there by car. Here the water is collected which comes down from the Apu Pachatusan. At the foot of the sanctuary there is a handicraft fair on this day, each year.
San Jeronimo, San Jeronimo, Cusco
In the nearby district to the south of Cusco, there is a great celebration for the Doctor San Jeronimo. From the night before it is worth visiting the town to see the arrival of the dance groups and of course, to spend the morning enjoying the festival.
Virgen del Rosario, Cusco, Andahuaylillas, Combapata
This Virgin is the patron of the Dominican order and it is possible to participate in celebrations in its honour in the Santo Domingo (Qorikancha) Church. On this day it is also worth going to Andahuaylillas to see the more local festival or to Combopata, 2 hours south of Cusco.
Señor de la Consolacion
An image worshiped in the Santa Clara church, close to the central market in Cusco.
1st and 2nd NOVEMBER
All Saints day and Day of the Dead in Cusco and throughout Peru.
Catholic festival but when we remember that November was the month of the dead, for these days (until the 4th) it is worth visiting the cemeteries to see the customs related to remembering ones ancestors in the Andes, usually with flowers, food and music. It is also interesting to observe the ritual of Tantawawa, babies made from bread for the occasion and the suckling pig which is the traditional family food.
The Immaculate Conception is taken out of the Cathedral for a procession (called La Linda) in honour of its day. Depending on how many worshipers there are, there may be dances and a celebration.
Originally a fair to buy decorations for nativity scenes which people made in their houses, today it is a handicraft fair in Cusco’s main plaza.
The majority of the celebrations listed above have an established traditional structure. There is a “mayordomo” in charge who enlists the support of his compadres, friends and family members, whose names appear in the list which is stuck to the church door. Theoretically, the festival is for everyone and we should not be surprised if we are invited to eat, drink, and dance even though they do not know us at the party. The best thing to do is to contact the mayordomo and offer a contribution (crates of beer are always an acceptable gift) so that the visitors from other places feel included from the beginning and even go to dance with the other people.
Pachatusantrek could arrange that your trip can coincide with any of these festivals, just let it in our hands and we can provide you the best organization for this.
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