San Sebastian following him way (Walter Coraza Morveli)
Yesterday, January 20th, was not a day like any other. Yesterday Cusco’s district of San Sebastian celebrated the feast of its patron saint of the same name. It was a special day for all the people of Cusco. Yesterday was its main day, though the feast began the 18th of the month. This feast has a great reception and draws crowds. From early in the morning people arrive from all over. They come to the central place, the district’s church.
The image of Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of the district, has him standing against a tree in which there is a parrot and the saint has four arrows piercing him. They are made of silver and gold; they are decorated with precious stones. Guided by priests, sacristans, majordomos and district authorities the image processed with colorful dances from the region and other places along with the saint’s faithful devotees. These last were uniquely men and were charged with carrying the saint during the procession. It is worth remembering that they do so barefoot and with much courage and faith.
When we reached this district the ambience was warm and welcoming. Everyone present was happy and shares beautiful smiles as they enjoy the moments. The good humor spread to everyone and made the fiesta even more pleasing and unique.
Food seems to be found everywhere and this feast in honor of St. Sebastian is no exception. Near the church is a paved area that was taken over by people dedicated to selling food. They put up tents in rows and each vendor exhibited their offerings that they made up for this special day. A few blocks before we arrived there we smelled the wonderful scents coming off the pots and the dishes. They nourished our sense of smell and provoked a great hunger. When we arrived at the tents we saw the array of dishes people were enjoying. There was chicharrón (crisp fried pork), baked chicken, and more than anything else, Cusco’s famous chiriuchu, its festive food par excellence. The cooks shouted out the names of their dishes in a loud voice trying to interest all who passed by.
On another part of the paved area outside the church in the Plaza of St Sebastian were the dancers and musicians. Their beautiful and loud melodies created a great and attractive noise. We saw different bands. Each played a traditional song and its dancers performed it. People were enchanted observing the steps and enjoyed the war of dances, sounds, and tunes.
There were also various games were people had fun for a while. Under the strong sun beverages were sold quickly, especially beer. That seemed the most consumed.
When the right moment came the procession began. Everyone came together in a mass, in front of the patron and enjoyed the wonderful music and the spectacle of the different bands. They accompanied he saint all along his path until the procession’s culmination.
After the procession finished, since it was wait people most awaited, many left for their homes. Others stayed to continue the fiesta. At night famous orchestras from all over the country were present in order to close the feast well, with a golden brush, as we say.