Southern Peru’s Festival Season is Approaching
The months of June and July are some of the most festive of the year in the Cusco region. In this blog post, we’ll go into three of the region’s most spectacular celebrations: the Qoylloriti Pilgrimage & Corpus Christi, the Virgen del Carmen Festival, and the Qeswachaka Bridge Festival.
The Qoylloriti Pilgrimage takes place each June during the week before the popular religious celebration of Corpus Christi. The pilgrimage is a tradition that dates back to the 18th century and is a celebration of the return of the Pleiades constellation to the southern skies, a symbol of the upcoming harvest season.
Each year, thousands of indigenous peoples from the high Andes converge at the Chapel of the Lord of Qoylloriti located at the base of Sinakara Mountain (4,600 m.a.s.l.). Villages throughout the rural agricultural regions of the high Andes send a delegation of dancers and musicians to partake in the multi-day processions and feasts around the shrine of Lord Qoylloriti.
The processions conclude in the ancient Inca capital of Cusco on Corpus Christi, a colorful celebration where statues of the saints and virgins representing the various neighborhoods of Cusco are paraded around the Plaza de Armas to greet the body of Christ sixty days after Easter Sunday. The night before the procession, locals gather in the streets for beer, chicha (a local beer-like beverage), and to enjoy the typical chiriuchu dish, a combination of ingredients from various regions throughout Peru.
This 2017, the Qoylloriti Pilgrimage takes place from June 11th to June 14th with Corpus Christi taking place on June 15th.
Virgen del Carmen Festival
The Fiesta del Virgen del Carmen takes place in the small town of Paucartambo, about four hours east of Cusco on the road to Manu National Park. Thousands come out for the festivities each year. The central day, July 16th, involves a spectacular procession around town with the image of the Virgen del Carmen, the patron saint of the mestizo population (those of both Spanish and indigenous descent).
The most awe-inspiring element of the festivities is the dancers dressed in incredible costume who dance traditional and indigenous choreographies portraying events in Peruvian history. On the final day, a symbolic war is waged on the demons with the faithful emerging triumphant. The procession finishes in the cemetery to pay homage to the souls of the dead.
For five days, with each day building on the last, it’s a wild celebration of dance, music, choirs, and acrobatics. In other words, it’s a celebration not to be missed if you happen to be nearby during the festivities.
This 2017, the Fiesta del Virgen del Carmen takes place between July 15th and July 18th. If you have the time, a great stop after the festivities is to continue on to Tres Cruces, a site just 40 km north of Paucartambo where you’ll find one of the most unique sunrises in the world and a spectacular cliff-edge view of the Amazon Basin. During the months of June and July, Tres Cruces has just the right climatic conditions to create a beautiful optical illusion. The humidity during these months makes the sun appear to dance between three different positions on the horizon. If you squint, it looks like three crosses, hence the name of the lookout.
Qeswachaka Bridge Festival
Every year, on the second Sunday in June, the Qeswachaka Bridge Festival begins. The event’s main attraction is the rebuilding of the last remaining hand-woven Inca straw bridge with techniques passed down through the generations since the time of the Incas. This event has taken place since the 15th century when the bridge was originally constructed. Today, more than 1,000 men and women from the surrounding communities help with the rebuild.
This four-day bridge festival takes place in the Canas Province, about 160km south of Cusco. The first three days are dedicated to rebuilding the 120-foot long bridge over the Apurimac River. The fourth and final day is a celebration in true folk form, full of song, dance, prayers to mother earth, and of course many enthusiastic bridge crossings by the festival-goers.
The Qeswachaka Bridge Festival is a unique opportunity for travelers to experience a festival still celebrated in the way it’s been celebrated for centuries and to see one of the last remaining Inca straw bridges.
This 2017, the Qeswachaka Bridge Festival will take place during the second week of June with the principal day on June 11th.
For more information about any of these festivals and how to attend, contact one of our Explorandes Travel Specialists today.