Customs

Cactus Thorns and Crosses in Holy Week

Cactuses in the Form of a Cross above a Door (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Holy Week brings intense days with a lot to do. These are activities that many Christians follow very closely and in which they actively participate. Throughout the whole country you find different traditions that make the celebration of each of Peru’s regions distinctive.

Among the activities that people follow very closely in Cuzco are the procession of the Lord of Temblors, the paschal vigil in the churches, and Via Crucis—way of the cross—that is the pilgrimage up the mountains in remembrance of Jesus’ path on his way to being crucified.

In addition, in many stores, barbershops and salons, as well as homes you wills ee spines—cactuses—in the form of a cross hanging above the door. During these days people go into our hills and forests to look for cactus they can harvest.

Its significance is similar to that of the cross of palm fronds from Palm Sunday. Since palms do not grow easily in the city of Cuzco people used a cactus they call patakischa. It is characterized by having its thorns in the form of a saw and on contact they pierce your skin. Even though you try to pull out the thorns it continues to penetrate your skin.

This is the cactus that forms a cross of thorns to hang over your door by one of its arms. It further continues to grow after being cut, throughout the year. People say it absorbs all the bad energy, evil gossip from other people, and brings luck in your business.

That is why every year in Holy Week people change the thorns over their doors following our custom. In some cases people bring crosses of cactus into town for sale. However, it is best to go looking for your own.

In this way, following these details, people in Cuzco live the feast of Holy Week, celebrating and teaching the new generation how to make these days wondrous.

 

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