Commentary

A Central Meaning of Chiriuchu and Corpus Christi

The Saints will soon leave the cathedral after their week long visit this year. It is the octava, the eighth day, of the great feast of Corpus Christi. With this feast comes a dish that almost everyone will eat the chiriuchu. The ritual and religious focus of he event is on the saints who come from their different parishes, the historical ones of the classic city to gather in the Cathedral with the Lord of Temblors there.

This is a holy gathering of sacred figures, but there is another gathering that is also symbolically important here, that of the pieces of the city that come together as a whole, the neighborhoods, symbolized in the parishes and their patron saints.

This coming together of different groups of people, a kind of horizontal gathering, to differentiate it from the vertical gathering of the formal Christian version, where the saints come into the presence of God, is also key to this festival both int he saints and in the chiriuchu. A conversation I had this morning emphasized this.

A taxi driver asked me if I knew the origin of chiriuchu. I asked him to tell me and he said he would tell me what his grandparents had told him.

Under the Incas, he related, the four divisions of the inca empire called suyos would gather together in celebration at Sacsayhuaman, the amazing and important Inca site above the city. Each would bring foods that were particular to their suyo and there at the site they would hold a collective meal. They would share the foods from the whole Empire.

A Mamacha Saling Chiriuchu (Walter Coraza Morveli)
A Mamacha Saling Chiriuchu (Walter Coraza Morveli)

He continued to tell me that the chiriuchu continues this tradition, in that it involves food from the different regions of Peru on a single plate which people then eat a bit of this and a bit of that to make the whole as they lift food to their mouth with their hands.

His story emphasizes different groups coming together as key to both eating the food and to its origin. As a result, we can argue the dish widely served today in a gastronomic festival by San Francisco, instead of Sacsayhuaman, depends on eating together elements that are both iconic and that literally come from different places to make the dish sacred and the feast sacred, even if this explanation runs somewhat counter to the traditional Catholic explanation of the feast.

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