Making a pilgrimage to Quyllur Rit’i is a great tradition in Cuzco and neighboring regions.Tens of thousands of people come from devotion and an intense faith. Every year at this time, around the end of May or the first of June, people prepare their dance troupes and their nations in order to carry out the largest and most important pilgrimage in Cuzco.
The sanctuary is found on the slopes of the snow clad Qulke Punku mountain. It is located in the province of Quispicanchi, Department of Cuzco, in the locality of Sinakara. Quyllur Rit’i is from Quechua and it means shining snow.
With music, dance, and much joyful noise the large comparsas–dance troupes–make their rounds. They visit the different crosses that are on the way until they reach the valley of Sinakara where they find the sanctuary waiting for them.
For Catholics, the pilgrimage focuses on the sanctuary because there, it is said, Christ appeared and his image is found on a massive rock. For other people the point of going is to participate in the games, as they are called, where people play at having what they desire. Others, such as the Q’eros come to salute, to greet the snow and the other apus, powerful earth beings, around. They especially greet the glacier since it is very important. The ukuku dancers climb it to communicate with the apus.
New Age people come to feel the energy of the mountains and the power of place in which they find spirituality.
Given the complexity of devotion and interests in Quyllur Rit’i, the beauty of the landscape makes us forget everything and transports up towards a paradise. It is really magical to be surrounded by the glacier and mountains. As a result we forget about the intense cold that hits us and enters even into our bones.
A week ago, a couple of friends and I visited Quyllur Rit’I to appreciate its majesty in the purest fashion possible. We stayed one night in the Sinakara valley in front of the Sanctuary. All along the way we enjoyed the beautiful scenery and a wonderful sunset embraced us while the warm, though shy, people drew us in with their smiles. They also told us some tales of the area.
As is well known, the buses and cars arrive at Maguallani and from their the pilgrims begin their ascent which takes maybe three hours at a comfortable pace. The new thing this year was the motorcycles that perform a transport service t get people up to the sanctuary. In prior years people who could not walk up could ride up on horses. Now motorcycles makes it easier for them.
As they say in the Andes, “faith moves mountains” and so people flock on droves to Qoyllur Rit’i these days.