The religious festival of the Qoyllorit’i of the department of Cusco, is one of the most intriguing events. It takes place at the foot of Ausangate mountain, considered by its inhabitants as one of the most important Apus and protectors of the place.
This festival is celebrated some years in June and others in the month of May. In any case it is carried out annually in Honor of the Lord of Qoyllurit’i. In Quechua that means “white snow”. A great number of people participate in this festival. They come from different places at the national and international levels.
This festivity is a clear example of religious syncretism. In the Inca era, the Apus, mountains, were worshiped. They are where the protective spirits of the place lived. With the arrival of the Spaniards , it is said that in this place the image of Christ appeared on a rock. From that moment until today it is venerated by the Catholic religion.
The curious thing about this festivity is the presence of the inhabitants of the community of Q’eros, a very organized community that maintains deeply ingrained traditions of the Incas. Some historians call it “the last Inca ayllu”. Today they are the only guardians of most Inca knowledge.
The knowledge and respect for nature is so high that, according to the color of the clouds and the direction of the wind, they know if they are going to have rains or droughts. They hold the maximum knowledge of natural medicine and the healing power of the plants which are the gift of the pacha mama – mother earth.
Every year that the Qoyllurit’i festival takes place, all the inhabitants of the community of Q’eros organize themselves to visit their Apus the same day of this holiday. Days before, they collect their medicinal plants and walk to the back of the snow of Ausangate. They give people their sacred plants and teach them how to use them. They also teach their customs and they make a payment to the Pachamama in gratitude for her immense kindness.
I was Talking with some residents of Pisac. They say that this year they are looking forward to the Qoyllurit’i festival, because it is their only chance to meet with the residents of the community of Q’eros and that they can receive from them the plants for healing. A woman mentioned that her son has a cough all the time. She is curtain that when going to the festival they will receive a medicinal plant that will definitely cure her child’s cough. The plants that the Q’eros distribute are very rare plants that are not easy to find in the city.
This tradition of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation is so beautiful and it is remarkable that there are so many people who still believe in the natural properties and healing power of plants. Hopefully this tradition will continue for many more years and not be lost because It is part of our cultural identity.