The Mamacha Asunta, Cultural Patrimony of Peru, Feted Today

Coya, one of the eight districts of Calca and a town in Cusco’s Sacred Valley of the incas breaks into celebration today. The fiesta was declared earlier this month ¨Cultural Patrimony of the Nation by the Ministry of Culture. This designation is located in Peruvian law, number 28296, where it establishes as Patrimony

the creations of a cultural community founded in traditions expressed by individuals in a unilateral or group manner and that are recognized as responding to the expectations of the community as an expression of its cultural and social identity, beside the orally transmitted values [. . .] cultural manifestations that together make up our cultural diversity as a country.

The resolution making Coya’s fiesta National Cultural Patrimony first describes the district and argues that the vast majority of its 3700 inhabitants are Catholi. As a consequence, the celebration whose roots are religious, located in the Church and in the images of the Virgin of Asunta, can be considered one that brings the whole community together. “[it] demands the participation of the entire community of the district as well as guests from other parts of Peru and from abroad. This festivity is part of the wide spread Marian feast of the Virgin of the Assumption.”

The resolution then describes the story of the Assumption and notes that in Coya the feast involves not just one, but three different images of this Virgin. It notes that this advocation of the Virgin Mary has become for the people of Qoya their Holy Patron and is warmly called by them Mamacha Asunta. Her’s has become the “most representative feast of the zone.”

It notes that not only do locals assume the responsibilities of carrying out the feast but that many who have migrated from Coya throughout Peru and elsewhere in the world return to Coya for this event and many also assume responsibilities.

It explains that amopng the responsibilities are those of mayordomo who bears the overall responsibility of caring for the image of the Mamacha Asunta, followed by the carguyoq, who organize and carryout one of the many dance troupes, the comparsas, that make up the feast, and the devout.

Each of the seven parts of Coya send a dance troupe to greet and honor the Virgin. Threre are 27 different dance troupes and they include widespread ones such as Qapac Colla as well as less known ones such as Qanchi Alcalde. They all belong to the Asociación Folklórica de Danzantes de La Virgen Asunta. The twenty-seven associations that form this larger group are:

Chunchacha, Siqlla, Contradanza, Kachampa, Qhapaq Qolla, Qollas de Qolla, Orcco Saqra, Auqui Saqra, Waccha Qoya, Puk’a Pacuri Chuncho, Mestiza Qoyacha, Qoyacha, Majeño, Aucca Chileno, Qhapaq Negro, China Saqra, Saqsampillo, Chuncho Rey, Qhapaq Chunchacha, Danzaq, Panaderitas, Negrillas, Asociación Civil Qhapaq Negro, Asociación civil Negrillos, Qoya Saqra, Misti Kachampa y Qanchi Alcalde

Finally, the resolution notes that the celebration of the Assumption is widespread within the Catholic world but that the feast in Coya is distinctive.

The Mamacha Asunta is also celebrated throughout the Department of Cusco, Even in its capital city she and her devotees, who have decorated her with cauliflowers, celery, cabbage, and fruit, occupy the Plaza de Armas today.

Intriguingly, the press that reported on the designation of the feast of Coya focused on the Virgin Asunta and missed the social implications, the way that emigrants from Coya and their children continue to return for the feast and to assume cargos, making Coya more than a geographical place on a political map, but the center of a diaspora joined by a common social and religious cult. They also missed the importance of the comparsas, the dance troupes, and their specificity at the same time they draw on more widespread traditions, just as the Virgin of the Assumption celebrated in Coya does as well.

Mamacha Asunta in the City of Cusco Today
Mamacha Asunta in the City of Cusco Today
Vegetable Offerings and the Mamacha Asunta in Cusco Today
Vegetable Offerings and the Mamacha Asunta in Cusco Today

David Knowlton

An anthropologist with decades of experiencing researching a variety of topics in the Andes, I fell in love with Cuzco in 1976 on a trip there from nearby Bolivia. My love has only grown in the years since then. Besides my work in the Andes, I am a foodie who appreciates local cuisines and the broad interaction between Iberian and indigenous cuisines in the Americas.

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