Cuzco’s San Sebastian District, one of the classic neighborhoods of the city, is all dressed up for a fiesta. Today, the 20th of January, every year it celebrates its Saint’s Day and anniversary. All of January is an important month for its population, filled with much religious faith in honor of Saint Sebastian. Peru’s National Institute of Culture has declared the feast Cultural Patrimony (Heritage) of the Country.
The fiesta is the religious feast of the district’s Holy Patron, since all of Cuzco’s districts have Holy Patrons who are focuses of the neighborhood’s devotion and are said to give protection and care. These saints not only organize the space and calendar of Cuzco, they also bring many traditions. These include music, dance, and gastronomy, especially as organized by its religious brotherhoods, its cofradías. The fiesta is a key in the social and economic life of the district. St. Sebastian claims one of the largest cults of devotion and the longest traditions in the region of Cuzco.
In 1922 a harsh frost hit the Department of Cuzco and killed the crops which provided for the basic materials for St.Sebastian’s feast. As a response the faithful in the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Altiplano of Puno, which were spared, donated all that was needed for the feast. Ever since that time, these areas also claim a place in the organization of the feast and the devotion to St. Sebastian.