Holy Week in Cuzco
Without doubt, the expectations for this week are really great. During this time the city of Cuzco will receive a great quantity of visitors from all over who come to enjoy an extra long vacation declared by the national government to encourge tourism by sharing with us this Catholic tradition.
The week began yesterday with morning mass that drew a large multitude to receive a blessing.
Today, Holy Monday will see the procession of the Lord of Earthquakes, Cuzco’s patron. It will begin around two or three in the afternoon. A great multitude will fill the Plaza de Armas (Main Square) for when the Lord comes out of the Cathedral to great his people. The procession will begin in the Cathedral, travel up Plateros Street where a police band will await the Lord’s coming to entertain him with various melodies.
Then the procession will pass by the Church to the side of the Park of the Mother where the Lord of Earthquakes will have his robes changed. After this he will travel to the Plaza San Francisco in front of the historic girls school Educandas. They will also await the Lord with a band which will serenade him with song before his robes are changed again and he continues his journey to the Church of La Merced where the Lord will give blessing.
From there this amazing procession will return to the Plaza de Armas together with an enormous multitude. It will feel like almost the entire poplation of Cuzco has packed itself into the square for the culminating moment when the Lord once again returns from his stroll through town and, before entering the Cathedral once again for a year, turns to bless his people who wait.
Various organizations accompany the Taytacha, as we lovingly call the Lord of Earthquakes, the Little Father. In his journey he will be born in turn by various groups including high schools.
The clergy accompanying him is made up of acolytes wearing white alvás. The Dominican fathers use black robes and represent the Church in company with Christ on his rounds through town. They go in front of the Lord of the Temblors, which is another translation for the Lord of the Temblores, as he is called in Spanish, and throughout they recite the rosary.
People gather to toss ñucchu flowers on the Lord as he passes from balconies on the Plaza de Armas and along the way, as well as from the street. Over the course of his procession the Taytacha becomes covered in red from this special and meaningful flower tossed on him. Not onl do people throw loose flowers, they also will place on him rings and crowns made of the red flowers that are from the sage family.
The flowers that have been thrown on the Lord and then fall to the ground are considered blessed. People gather them to take them home to place on their own images and figures of the Lord of Earthquakes.
In the doorway of each church there are people who climb up the pillars to toss ñucchu as well as crowns and rings of the flowers. Streets are filled completely with people. There is no free space, so that all can receive the blessing of this holiest of figures, the Taytacha, as well as to greet him and say goodbye for another year.
On returning to the Cathedral, before entering it again, the Taytacha does a blessing for all gathered in teh Plaza which looks like an endless sea of people. The bells ring out and ambulances turn on their sirens as a sing of the blessing that is being given. As the Lord re-enters the Cathedral for another year on this Holy Week, the procession concludes and it is around nine or ten at night.
It used to be that after this a kind of chaos would rein, where people would attack politicians or other leaders who were known for being less than honest. They would stone them. In the melee any one could be injured making this time of darkness, after the Lord has returned, a dangerous times and thereby emphasizing the power of the Lord to bring good when in the streets of Cuzco.
The next day, Holy Tuesday, mass is carried out in the morning in all of Cuzco’s Churches.
On Holy Thursday, the last supper is celebrated along with the washing of feet. People visit the seven churches of Cuzco to appreciate the monuments that have been decorated. These are San Blas, the Compañía, La Merced, San Francisco, Santa Clara, and San Pedro. While these are considered the seven main Churches of Cuzco, all the various churches put up monuments in celebration, but the idea is that one should visit these seven at least.
From two am on Holy Friday one does the holy Via Crucis, the stations of the cross in memory of Christ’s path through Jerusalem while carrying the cross. For this the cross is carried towards Sacsayhuaman where the White Christ stands. In all the trajectory teh stations of the cross are announced. People make stops in order to recite prayers such as the Our Father and Ave Maria. They also sing and make music. Then when they reach the White Christ, the priest will whip people like Jesus was scourged in order for them to receive forgiveness for their sins. In other churches as well as places where there is a cross people will also climb up to perform a similar ritual.
The, in the morning, they fast. They wait until midday to eat the twelve dishes of Holy Week. None of them have any meat.
Saturday is called Holy Saturday of Glory. On this day people stay in their families and reflect on their lives and things in general. Some will weatch movies about the life of Jesus.
On the Sunday of Resurrection, in the morning during mass the announcement is given that Jesus has risen. Everyone goes to mass that morning. The traditions of Holy week are truly spectacular in Cuzco.
During the whole week we encounter much joy and much noise. People buy sweets as well as foral decorations, and make all the preparations for the twelvedishes. They can be found not only in people’s homes, but also in the main plazas (squares) such as San Francisco, San Pedro, and in the streets of the ols town where the whole tradition is maintained.
Visitors, whether Peruvians taking advantage of the new long formal holiday for Holy Week, or foreigners come to Cuzco to spend the long week and share with us the tradition of Holy Week. It is wise to make reservations early, sicne on these days hotels fill up because of the heavy demand.
All of Cuzco looks forward with great joy to spending this week in comanionship with their families and in moments of relection at the same time they enjoy our great and historica traditions.