Customs, Food Culture

The Month of Purple Celebrates Miracles, Rain, and Peru’s Coast

Devotees of the Lord of Miracles, Cuzco (RPP)

Though the Lord of Miracles is centered in Lima where his history goes back centuries, he is gaining devotion in Cuzco. Called the month of purple in both cities, October is when this image of Jesus processes through the streets and when purple appears in public as a memory and devotion to him.

In Cuzco, the purple month is more than just a religious feast, the color suggests the rich colors of cloudy skies and rain falling on the city of Cuzco as the hillsides and fields reawaken and sprouts of green along with flowers reappear.

October is also the season of fruit. In the lowland valleys of Cuzco the production of much fruit reaches its peak and the markets of Cuzco fill with oranges, mandarins, star fruit, and more. It is a month filled with rich flavors.

In Inca times October was known as Uma Raymi Quilla, or the moon of the celebration of water. During it, according to the chronicler Guaman Poma de Ayala, white llamas would be sacrificed in honor of the deities while black llamas would be taken to the area now known as the Plaza de Armas and made to cry in order to encourage the rains to fall and help people to have food to eat.

Uma Raymi Quilla, Guaman Poma de Ayala
Uma Raymi Quilla, Guaman Poma de Ayala

Though the associations with the rainy season continue, the month has lost in the city the strong connection with hunger because of the modern commerce with the lowlands. Nevertheless if the rains did not fall Cuzco would still suffer hunger.

Today, the 18th of October, the Dark Christ (Christo Moreno) will process around the plaza of San Francisco Cuzco in the company of ecclesiastical, civic, and military authorities along with faithful from the general public. Most particularly he is accompanied by the Brotherhood of the Lord of Miracles of Cuzco.

Though the coming of rains has ancient devotion in Cuzco, the contemporary celebration of the Lord of Miracles is relatively new, though very important. The image of the Lord finds a home in the Temple of the Nazarenes in 1945. The first procession takes place in 1953, after which the Brotherhood of the Lord of Miracles is formally constituted by canonical decree.

Cuzco (http://www.rpp.com.pe /2011-10-17-iniciaran-procesion -del-senor-de-los-milagros-en-cusco-noticia_413683.html)
Cuzco (http://www.rpp.com.pe /2011-10-17-iniciaran-procesion -del-senor-de-los-milagros-en-cusco-noticia_413683.html)

The Brotherhood accompanies the Lord of Miracles through the streets of Cuzco where he makes stops for people to offer devotion. Along the way songs and prayers accompany him. Sometimes people will also dance.

Much of the music and dance is not only from, but is symbolic of, the Peruvian coast. This includes creole waltzes and especially the marinera. In Lima the marinera is danced in honor of the Lord of Miracles, especially in its local form which contrasts with the more vibrant and active marinera norteña, the dance from the north coast.

Although relatively new, this celebration has deep roots. The Incas built a large temple at the site of the shrine of the Lord of Pachacamac where the Lurin River enters the Pacific Ocean and myth speaks of the creator god Tiqsi Viracocha in association with the river and islands immediately off the coast. Pachacamac along with Lake Titicaca located Cuzco as a middle point between two great bodies of water, both of which are related to the creator god and to the creation of people. They also are related to the rains that begin to fall this month and continue through April while the fields sprout and crops mature in an explosion of color and life.

Señor de los Milagros, Cuzco (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php ?fbid=108315552554311&set=pb. 108314762554390.-2207520000.1350572251&type=1&theater)
Señor de los Milagros, Cuzco (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php ?fbid=108315552554311&set=pb. 108314762554390.-2207520000.1350572251&type=1&theater)

The ethnohistorian María Rostworowski argues that the devotion to the Lord of Miracles is a continuity of cult of the Lord of Pachacamac in the area of Lima. Its coming to Cuzco is strongly related to the current importance of Lima as the capital of Peru and its largest city and the site to which large numbers of Cuzqueños have migrated. These is probably not a family who does not have a major part of it living in Lima and the people of Cuzco often travel to the coastal metropolis and speak by phone with family and friends in Lima regularly.

Though relatively new, this feast follows a deep and ancient path of connection with the coast and the coastal water deities.

The color purple which symbolizes the month, despite its evident associations with the colors of a rumbling sky laden with water, stems from the color of the robes worn by the Confraternity or Brotherhood of the Lord of Miracles. They wear either tunics or capes of violet during this season.

Besides the main sodality of the Lord of Miracles, there are other confraternities established for those who take turns carrying the image through the streets. They also wear capes of purple with different decorative elements. Some of them wear an image of the Lord of Miracles.

The musical bands accompanying the image also have great importance. Besides the band of the national police, the widely honored and recognized band of the school for young women called Educandas greets the lord with special melodies for the Lord of Miracles.

Cuzco (http://www.rpp.com.pe /2011-10-17-iniciaran-procesion -del-senor-de-los-milagros-en-cusco-noticia_413683.html)
Cuzco (http://www.rpp.com.pe /2011-10-17-iniciaran-procesion -del-senor-de-los-milagros-en-cusco-noticia_413683.html)

The faithful have the custom of decorating the streets of Cuzco, especially those in the center of the city, its monumental core, with chains of white and purple, as well as with flags. In organizations such as schools, institutes, universities, and private institutes people make large carpets of flowers and colored sawdust. In this way they make huge images on the ground for the image of the Lord of Miracles to pass over.

The feast is not just about religious images, music, dance, and color, it is also about food. During this month people eat the famous Turrón de Doña Pepa, a candied set of layers of flavored pastry logs strongly conencted with Lima and with the Lord of Miracles. But since this is the city of Cuzco they also consume the bread brought from nearby Oropesa and its recent feast of Tanta Raymi.

This month of celebration ends on the 31st of October with the celebration in schools and plazas of the Day of Creole Song (canción criolla). This musical style, which has almost become synonymous with Peruvian Song, developed on the coast in the creole waltz and the marinera among other song styles and celebrates Peru with the coast as its governmental and demographic center these days.

You can see a video of dance, song, and the image of the Lord of Miracles in Cuzco here.

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