The great feast that has grown in a massive crescendo this year. It began with the pilgrimage to Qoyllorriti, the snow mass on the mountain. It continued with Corpus Christi and the presentation of almost every institution in dances or simple parades in salute to the city. And, it ends with Inti Raymi, the recreation in pageant of an Inca celebration prayer to the sun on the twenty-fourth of this month.
The focus is on the relentless movement from celebration to celebration in Cuzco’s Main Square as if it were the ritual lungs and heart of the social body of its political and economic region. Nevertheless, there are many side events. One of these is the return of troupes and individuals from events in the ritual centers, like Qoyllurriti, or the Main Plaza of Cuzco, to their home communities throughout the region, like air and blood that returns from the heart and lungs to every part of the body.
Before and after the Octava, the feast that takes place a week after the main event, of the Lord of Qoyllurriti, all the troupes, also called nations, return to their place of origin. With great joy they take all their experiences of their pilgrimage and travels to their brothers and sisters at home who could not ake the pilgrimage this yeas.
In Cuzco the troupes arrive back home with much fervor and joy. Many people want to see them and their dances. So, the dance around the Plaza de Armas to the sound of music, along with the Saints who are still haven’t finished their Corpus Christi rounds.
Similar scenes unfold through out the region of Cuzco. When we were returning to Cuzco from Puerto Maldonado on the new Interoceanic Highway that connects Brazil and Peru, from ocean to ocean, we saw a fiesta in process at a very small Church with a few buildings surrounded by jungle. Just past it the traffic slowed as the oncoming lane was occupied with a figure of a saint and a relatively large procession.
They walked to the sound of bands as cars surged past in the other lane. Among them was a substantial troupe of Pablitos, pilgrims to Qoyllurriti with their distinctive costumes. They danced their characteristic dance up the steep hills of this jungle road, still dressed in the heavy costumes that protected them from the cold above fifteen thousand feet high by the glacier. Here in the jungle the were at less than a thousand feet and probably sweating copiously as they danced their return from near the top of the mountains, high above them at the limits of human possibility.
The movement from one ecological, and hence social, zone to another is a key to this feast, whether the beginning and ending zones are Cuzco’s main Square, a rural, highland community or provincial town, or a small settlement in the jungle. Similar returns happen for other parts of the massive complex of feasts.
From very distant places groups of Pablitos and other pilgrims make the journey to Qoyllurriti to then return home, the Pablitos with their flags, ensigns, and costumes to the sound of bands. In full regalia the make a triumphant entry into their home places. In this way they carry the experience and its holiness with them like air or red corpuscles to their friends and family at home. They also build desires among themselves and others for the next year´s feast.
They make the journey because of commitment and faith, as well as desire for social acceptance and status. Their trip requires sacrifice and takes them far away to border zones, and maybe further, while they teach the tradition and faith to many other people. They also share it with upcoming generations who will continue the route for many more decades, if not centuries.