Calendar of Festivities in Cusco

The spirit of Peruvian man, sculpted by art and religion, has given rise to a creative vein that arises in an infinite variety of forms, rhythms and rituals. Year after year, more than 3,000 popular parties, 1,500 musical styles and countless arts and crafts confirm that Peru is home to one of the most varied folkloric legacies in the world. With this the Peruvians feed off their deep roots to project an eternal alliance with nature and through rhythms and colors, to reinforce their commitment to life that extends to visitors through hospitality and reciprocity, which are so typical of the Peruvian culture. The many festivals, including those of a religious nature, reveal the nature of the Peruvians, both men and women, their inclination to be sociable and share their hopes.
Festivities and rituals in Cusco: Cusco celebrates hundreds of festivals. Most of them are celebrated in homage to a patron saint and are part of the Christian calendar adopted in colonial times, although they have been mixed with the magical beliefs of ancient forms of worship. The celebration of Holy Week, Carnival, Corpus Christi and the feast of the “Lord of the Earthquakes”, have a special meaning for the people of Cusco, becoming a great folkloric expression of their people.
The highest expression of the folklore of the people of Cusco occurs in the Inti Raymi (June 24).

Festival of Ollantaytambo
January 6th –
Ollantaytambo, Feast of the Magi, religious processions, great folk dances.

Feast of San Sebastian
January 20
San Sebastian, religious festival of the patron of the town, great folk dances and treat of foods and fruits.

Ch’iaraje
January 20
Province of Canas, district of Yanaoca (Community of Checa).
A ritual struggle between the people of the communities of Checa and Quehue who fight against each other in war games to stimulate the fertility of the earth. The winning community receives the largest portion of the land. The men are armed with slings, leather whips and sticks and are dressed with vests adorned with flowers. They help women by caring for horses, collecting stones, and encouraging men with songs.

Carnivals – The festival of joy
February – movable
The Peruvian Carnivals are marked by the festive character of the Andean areas, which regularly break with their solemn traditions. Beyond the regional variations, a common feature of the chain of almost the entire sierra is the ritual of the yunza, called umisha in the jungle and cutter on the coast. This is the artificial tree trunk of a tree laden with gifts, around which the guests dance until it is cut with a machete or an ax. The couple that make the tree fall will be in charge of the organization of the yunza next year. Peruvians throughout the country are very fond of throwing buckets of water at each other during this festival, so viewers would be wise to take precautions.

Fights of Toqto
February 2
Province of Chumbivilcas, District of Livitaca (Toctopata) Cusco
They take place in Toqto, a village located between the districts of Yanaoca and Livitaca. It’s 3 days of fighting and representations of the past when people fought to win more land. The first day, people settle in the place. The second day the battles begin one against one, and later groups of 5 to 10 people form. After eating and drinking everyone fights on the third day, and when the games are over the wounded are taken care of and the communities organize the qhaswa (party for the winners and losers)

Lord of the Earthquakes – The Black Christ and the Crimson Flower (Holy Week)
March fortnight and first week of April
From 1,650, when the faithful claimed that an image of Christ on the cross had helped them in a devastating earthquake that occurred in the city of Cusco, the inhabitants of this town pay homage to the image of Taitacha Tremors, the Lord of the Earthquakes . The celebration takes place on Easter Monday at Easter.
This celebration is of particular interest, because it allows visitors to observe the fusion between Andean religions and Christianity. The cathedral of Cusco, 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 the Earthquakes is moved in procession through the streets of the city as the Incas did to move the mummies of their chiefs, high priests and rulers. In the end, the main 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 make a crown to the Lord of the Earthquakes. This crimson 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 the centuries, the smoke of candles and incense, no one has dared to restore the blackened paint, which has given the Christ a dark appearance and a dark face .

Cruz Velacuy (Feast of the Crosses)
May 2
Feast of pagan religious character, held in the fields, at night, in which the crosses that are located on the hills are venerated, the next day crosses are carried to the church of the nearest town.

Lord of Torrechayoc
May (variable)
Province of Urubamba, District of Urubamba. Cusco
This festival began to be celebrated in 1860 when a huge cross was placed in the snow, and the opening of a section of railroad (Urubamba-Lares), was celebrated with a mass. Years later, the cross was taken to the city of Urubamba, where they started a cult of it. In addition to a mass, the cross is carried in procession with all its jewels. There are fireworks, parades of dancers, bullfights and cockfights.

Qoyllur Rit’i
May (variable)
Province of Quispicanchi, District of Ocongate – Cusco
A pilgrimage to the top of Sinakara mountain. The greatest pilgrimage of all the indigenous nations of the Americas. More than 10 thousand people arrive in Sinakara, at the foot of the Ausangate mountain (6,362 m.s.n.), to pay homage to a painting of the Child Jesus. The ascent of a group of Queros to the snowy summit to look for the Snow Star (Qoyllur Rit’i) in the heart of the mountain, is full of symbolism. They will carry large blocks of ice on their backs in order to receive blessings and take them to their communities to water their lands with sacred water. On the way, there is a procession, some dances, musical groups, performances, fireworks and a symbolic market, Alasitas (miniature works). This festival brings together two traditions – Andean and Catholic. At this party, drunkenness and sexual contact are prohibited, a common feature of the Andean festivities.

Corpus Christi
(June movable – 9 weeks after Easter)
The Corpus Christi festival is celebrated throughout Peru since colonial times, but reached a peak in Cusco. Fifteen saints and virgins from various districts are loaded in a procession to the Cathedral where they “receive” the body of Christ incarnated in the Sacred Host, remaining in a fabulous golden cup that weighs 26 kilos and measures 1.2 m. Tall. Sixty days after Easter, the members of each nearby church carry their patron saint in a procession to the bells of Maria Angola, the largest bell of the Peruvian Churches, forged in a copper and gold alloy in the sixteenth century by local artisan Diego Arias de la Cerda. At night all the people gather for a vigil where they serve typical dishes such as chiriuchu (spicy guinea pig), beer, chicha and corn bread. At dawn the procession is established around the Plaza Mayor, having the images of five virgins dressed in richly embroidered robes, in addition to the images of four saints: San Sebastian, San Blas, San José and the apostle Santiago mounted on a beautiful white horse . Then, the saints are admitted to the cathedral to receive a tribute, after the representatives and authorities of the communities met in the Plaza Mayor to discuss local issues. Finally, the delegations return to the churches amid hymns and prayers. All the towns and Cusco participate. It is the maximum religious festival in which the images of saints and virgins are taken from all the churches and taken to visit the image of the Christ in the Cathedral. The processions, the adornment and embellishment of the streets and the fervor of the people, are an indescribable spectacle.

“Inti Raymi”
June 24
The Inti Raymi is a festival that celebrates the sun god of the Incas, nowadays it is the festival of the Inca Empire.
The Inti Raymi is a festival celebrated since the time of the Incas during the winter solstice to worship the sun god, it involves colorful costumes, luxury banquets, festive music, and historical re-enactments.

Feast of the Virgin of Carmen
July 15-18
Paucartambo
Four hours from Cusco, in the town of Pucartambo, thousands of believers venerate the Virgin of Carmen, locally called Mamacha Carmen, patron saint of the mestizos. The meeting that begins these days of celebration takes place in the Plaza Mayor, where the bands of musicians play their instruments, while richly dressed choruses sing in Quechua, giving rise to ingenious choreographies that represent passages of the history of Peru. During five days there are comparsas of different costumes (Doctorcitos, Waca Waca, Sarjas) that parade in procession accompanying the “Mamacha” throughout its tour of the Plaza de Armas, the atrium of the temple and the streets of the town. On the central day the Virgin is led in procession to bless the assistants and ward off the demons. The dancers perform gymnastic and risky tests on the roofs of the houses, showing their attires of Inca and colonial fashions. At the end of the procession a war is waged against the demons, from which the faithful come out triumphant. Finally the procession ends its journey in the cemetery to pay a tribute to “the souls”.

Quillabamba Party
July 25-29
Province of La Convención, District of Santa Ana Cusco
This is the celebration of the anniversary of the province of La Convención whose capital is Quillabamba. Each year, a Queen of Coffee or “Miss Quillabamba” is elected. There is also cock fighting, tournaments, motocross competitions, and the Cocla Fair, which has a music festival with national and international artists.

“Pachamama Raymi” – Mother Earth Day
August 1
All the department of Cusco.
On this day, the following festivals take place in: Pachamama raymi in the Ccatca district, Wataqallariy in the Maras district, and Kinturaymi in Huasao in the Oropesa district. This is an Andean ritual that adores and pays tribute to the Pachamama (Mother Earth) in a special ceremony called “payment to the earth” with offerings of coca leaves, chicha de jora and seeds of huayruro (seeds of the mystical jungle). The rite marks the beginning of the Andean New Year.

Lord of Huanca
September 14
Province of Calca, District of San Salvador. Cusco
The history of the Lord of Huanca began in 1675 when, it is said, Jesus Christ appeared in a cave to Diego Quispe, an Indian. His living history inspired one of the best painters of the time to reproduce the image on a rock. The cult (recognized in 1779) reaches its climax on September 14, and believers come from all over Peru and Bolivia in search of a cure for their physical and spiritual ills.

Tikaranticuy Fair
December 23th
Cusco, Fair of ornamental, medicinal, wild plants, is a show full of color.

Santuranticuy Fair
Dec. 24
Cusco, Fair of colonial origin, congregation of hundreds of artisans in the Plaza de Armas, exhibition and commercialization of handicrafts.