ith faith and devotion thousand’s of Cuzcos’ Catholics make the pilgrimage to the shrine of the Lord of Huanca to receive his blessing and commemorate his central day.
The Lord of Huanca claims one of the largest and most important pilgrimages in the city of Cuzco, along with that of Qoylluritiy, Cuzco’s people have a lot of devotion to the Lord of Huanta. They say he is very miraculous. If you go to ask for something, ad you go with a lot of faith, they say he will grant you any wish.
They claim that there once was a man who lived in Sa Blas. He was very sick, He had quite a lot of money and had contracted many doctors to heal him of his illness. But none could diagnose his sickness. In the final stages a man appeared to him who looked like a pilgrim. He came to his house asking for water.
Being very grateful, the visitor asked what afflicted his host and was told he was ill. So he returned the favor by offering, in turn, his host a glass of water and that water started him on the path to health. He asked what he could do in turn and was told that he should just continue being good and doing good things.
He inquired where the traveler came from and how he could visit him sometime or where he could find him. The visitor only said “come to Huanca”. Then he departed.
From that day forward the man tried to find him. He asked everyone where huanca was but no one knew.
One day some wood cutters came bringing firewood for sale. Curious, this man asked them where the wood came from and they said “Huanca, sir”. He then proposed to buy all their wood if they would take him to visit that place.
After some days they arrived at the town of Huanca. Once there the man began to ask about the tall man who had visited him and cured him but nobody seemed to know him. So he started to climb up the side of the mountain out of town. And there, the man he was inquiring about appeared to him as if out of nowhere, mysteriously. The healed man got very happy.
They began talking and walking until the tall man entered a bush and disappeared. The seeker on looking for him desperately looked among the branches of brush and found a picture of Christ being scourged with whips. On looking at the picture’s face, he recognized that it was the very image of the person who ha healed him miraculously. He kneeled and bean crying on having this realization. After some days he donated his money to have built a small chapel in memory of that Christ.
Today, the 14th of September many people will visit the sanctuary up on the hillside of Hunca. They will make a pilgrimage by foot for almost seven hours.
Their route begins in the plaza, the main square of the once separate and now suburban town of San Jeronimo (St. Jerome) — a town in which the Incas from Cuzco, the nobility, were relocated. They rise up the mountain outside of town to walk over the high plateau above. They pass through several communities. There the pilgrims can rest or take some refreshment since the people of the communities seize the opportunity to sell hot drinks such as ponche or coffee and to sell food such as rice with a fried egg or other dishes of the region.
To continue with the pilgrimage, the walkers cross over this flat land and then comes the moment of descending a very steep path down a long rock face, what in Spanish is called “roca madre” or “mother rock”, the true, whole rock from deep in the earth, rather than rocks and boulders that have become separate.
The path now is narrow and we must walk very carefully since at any moment we could slip or fall on the path or off it to our death. People say that if you stumble and fall it is because of the sins you have committed and are paying for them with blows that make you go to your knees or worse. The important thing is to at least make it down to the Chapel, all this being part of the experience.
Many people do the pilgrimage at night so that by dawn they can arrive at the sanctuary and with the morning light feel cleansed.
Other pilgrims prefer to use modern transportation services. On this special date, from the city of Cuzco there are many buses that make the journey to Huanca. Other people take their own vans and cars to arrive at the sanctuary.
People go to Huanca with many ends in mind. One of them is to visit the shrine and commemorate this important day by being part of the masses that are carried out here during the days and weeks near its central date. They go to receive the blessing that is they most important thing for them. It is a tradition that these pilgrims take their vehicles that they have recently bought to have them blessed with holy water by the priest of the sanctuary so that they may go on the good path and always be guided and protected by the Lord of Huanca.
After having their cars blessed people will light candles to worship the Lord and ask blessings for them selves and their families. There is an independent chapel off to the side for the lighting of candles. There they make images on the wall, by drawing in melted wax from the candles their desires. These include things such as houses cars and other things of life.
The sanctuary also has pools of water where many people will dip themselves to cure themselves of their ills. hey say that in this clean water they spiritually cleanse their bodies. I have mostly seen elderly people enter these pools.
Going to Huanca is a complete experience and more than anything else an great tradition. After receiving the blessing, people will go down to the town of San Salvador (Our Savior) where there is a fair containing local gastronomy, handicrafts, and souvenirs such as necklaces, articles to decorate your vehicles, most with images of the Lord of Huanca.
On leaving this place they take with themselves holy water for their homes and to think about returning the next year since the tradition says that if you go once you must return three times in three years to receive the fullness of the blessings you desire.
You can return to Cuzco by taking a bus from San Salvador, or you can continue walking to the town of Pisac, some three hours way by foot. The say that many people who start in San Jeronimo continue on this route because it is flat and because the busses from San Jeronimo fill up too quickly.