Holy Week in Cusco, Peru is one of the country’s most important and traditional religious festivities. It is celebrated during the last week of March or the first week of April, a week dedicated to commemorating the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an occasion when Peruvians immerse themselves in faith and devotion.
Holy Week in Peru is characterized by numerous processions and religious representations in different cities and towns across the country. Each region has its own traditions and customs, making the celebration unique and special in each place.
One of the standout cities during Holy Week in Peru is Cusco, the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. Here, the procession of the Lord of the Earthquakes takes place, a religious image considered the patron saint of the city. Thousands of faithful gather to accompany the image as it travels through the streets of Cusco, creating an atmosphere of fervor and contemplation.
Another city that stands out during Holy Week in Peru is Ayacucho, known as the “Capital of Holy Week.” Various outdoor theatrical representations, known as “huaylías,” take place here, reenacting biblical passages of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus. These performances attract thousands of tourists each year.
In Lima, the capital of the country, various processions and religious activities also occur during Holy Week. One of the most prominent is the procession of the Lord of Miracles, which typically takes place in October but has a replica during Holy Week. This procession is considered the largest in Latin America and brings together thousands of faithful who accompany the image of the Christ of Pachacamilla on its route through the streets of Lima.
Holy Week Customs in Cusco
Holy Week in Cusco is celebrated between the second half of March and the first week of April; the date is variable. It begins on Palm Sunday with the traditional blessing of palms, a procession, and a Eucharistic celebration at the Cathedral Basilica starting at 6 in the morning.
It is a religious commemoration, where the Andean Catholic syncretism is evident. Around 80 thousand parishioners gather to receive the blessing of the Lord of the Earthquakes, considered the Sworn Patron of the city. The devotion of the people of Cusco is evident in this religious celebration, which is broadcasted by various local media outlets.
The blessing takes place on Holy Monday, as it is the day when the Sworn Patron of Cusco, the Lord of the Earthquakes, is paraded in a procession.
The Archbishop of the city offers the Communion Mass in the Cathedral. Starting at 6 am, masses are celebrated every hour until noon in honor of the image.
On Good Friday, there is the encounter of the Christ’s procession at the Holy Sepulcher and the Sorrowful Virgin.
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The Lord of the Earthquakes
According to some sources, the history of the Lord of the Earthquakes, known as Christ with emaciated features and a daunting appearance, dates back to when Emperor Charles V sent the effigy to Cusco, specially made for the indigenous people, copying their abrupt features. The Spaniards sought to consolidate the Conquest made by the sword and impose their worship in this way.
The Archaeological Capital of America and the former main center of the mighty Tahuantinsuyo Empire celebrates Holy Week by worshiping the image of the Lord of the Earthquakes, or Taitacha Tremors in Quechua.
Since then, the procession of the mestizo Christ takes place every Holy Monday, followed by a multitude of parishioners who accompany it with humble fervor. Refined pieces of velvety tapestries with gold stripes, fabrics, and shiny carpets are placed in the windows of houses as the effigy passes by, reserved especially for this occasion. Meanwhile, small mortars, firecrackers, and rockets agitate the atmosphere with their noise, almost drowning out the chants and prayers of the crowd.
Good Friday is a very important date in Christian tradition, as it commemorates the crucifixion and death of Jesus. In many countries, especially those with a Catholic tradition, it is customary for families to prepare the traditional 12 dishes for this day.
These 12 dishes symbolically represent the 12 apostles of Jesus, and their selection is based on ingredients that are typical of the region or that are related to biblical history. Some of the most common dishes include fish, seafood, vegetables, legumes, and special breads.
The most common dishes are the traditional corn cream called Lawa, also liza soup, shrimp soup, cod stir-fry, trout stew, seafood rice; in the sweets section, traditional fruit stews, rice pudding, empanadas, condesas, sighs, bread cake, and crusty bread, among others.
The preparation of the 12 dishes can be a long and laborious process, as each one requires its own recipe and cooking technique. However, this task is seen as a way to honor the memory of Jesus and to keep the family tradition alive.
Once the dishes are ready, families gather for a special lunch to share and commemorate these celebrations. It is a moment of unity and reflection, where the sacrifice of Jesus is remembered, and gratitude is expressed for his love and redemption.
Good Friday is a day of contemplation and reflection, so many families also attend religious services and participate in processions that represent the Passion of Christ. These processions are a way to express faith and to remember the suffering of Jesus on his path to crucifixion.
La Semana Santa concluye el Domingo de Resurrección. Luego de la procesión y la celebración de la Misa, por las calles principales se respira el exquisito aroma de las delicias que deleitan a propios y visitantes, como el sabroso caldo de pollo, las empanadas, el maíz blanco dulce, los tamales y las tortas. Así, de manera pagana, se cierra la Semana Santa Andina en la antigua ciudad imperial del Cusco.
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