The Feast of The Pattern of San Sebastian Cusco

The city of Cusco is a magical place that has a great cultural diversity that is actively developed throughout the year throughout the region. Every month of the year in the different districts of the city, great traditional festivals are organized, which allege the living culture and tradition from memorable times.

The month of January begins with one of the biggest festivities, the Festivity of the Patron Saint Sebastian, one of the 15 saints and virgins who go out in procession in Corpus Christie. As in many festivals, the syncretism between Andean culture and Christianity begins with various activities such as masses in honor of the patron saint for devotees, parades of traditional dances, music and traditional cuisine throughout the district.

This party was declared Cultural Heritage of the Nation by the National Institute of Culture (INC) on June 25, 2010, great news for all the comparsas and the people of the district, who are very happy and with more fervor they make a better party of the Saint Sebastian pattern every year.

People Looking the St Sebastian Banner
People Looking the St Sebastian Banner

About the Feast of San Sebastian

The festival of Saint Sebastian lasts for 3 consecutive days on January 18, 19 and 20 and finally its eighth, 8 days after the central day. The preparation for the party is done well in advance to have everything ready.

The organization is carried out with the participation of all the brotherhoods and fraternities who are organized to cover all the activities in the 3 days. Although the party starts from the month of December and the entire month of January, where the troupes celebrate on different days with their representative dances and dedicate it to the patron San Sebastián.

On January 19, the eve of the entire festival begins, the residents together with the authorities and priests of the district organize everything, the first thing is the so-called “triumphal entry”, while the dancers enter with the brotherhoods and the butlers with gifts blessed by the priest of the main chapel.

The comparsas meet in the different houses of the carguyoq, place where the position is carried out, they are in charge of directing the period that corresponds to them annually.

The main day is January 20, everything starts with an entrance mass at 6 A.M., then all the national and international attendees arrive at the main church of the district, so as not to miss any detail of this traditional custom.

After the initial mass, a procession is carried out with the saint’s litter, throughout its journey through the streets of the district, it is guided by the sacristan priests, mayordomos and authorities, its most faithful devotees carry it on their shoulders, all they are shown barefoot and infected with the same faith throughout the course. The saint’s walk is very heavy, so approximately 60 men are needed who relieve those who feel tired at every certain distance.

Bearers Carrying San Sebastian (Hebert Huamani)
Bearers Carrying San Sebastian (Hebert Huamani)

The rhythm, the color and the good vibes are felt in the more than 20 comparsas that integrate faith and devotion to this saint, each one with a different dance and feeling, the happy steps with great skill, the sounds of the rattles and the whistles in each movement, highlight the multicolored typical costumes they wear, it is a sharing of emotions with the attendees who visit this district every year.

The eighth is the farewell party, this takes place eight days after the central day of San Sebastián, every January 28. Those in charge of carrying out this unparalleled party are the butlers, who invite collaborators and devotees of the patron saint to participate in the farewell until next year. All this beautiful party takes place in the main square of the district, a very important place full of culture and tradition.

The District of San Sebastian Cusco

The district of San Sebastián is one of the 8 districts of the Province and Department of Cusco, it is located 5 kilometers away, 15 minutes approx. from the Plaza Mayor of Cusco next to the main road Avenida de la Cultura, at approximately 3200 meters above sea level.

This beautiful district was created on January 2, 1857 during the government of President Ramón Castilla. Its name is due to the holy martyr San Sebastián, who is the patron saint of this beautiful district.

This place has a great historical value, according to the findings and studies, a large part of its territory belonged to the Marcavalle Culture and later to the Inca civilization, where it is currently named as the place of the last royal panaca of the Incas.

Sunset in San Sebastian
Sunset in San Sebastian

Image of the Patron Saint Sebastian Cusco

The image of the patron Saint Sebastian has great importance for the devout faithful in two very important aspects, in Christianity that the holy martyr alludes to and in the Andean culture that represents the triumph over the extirpation of idolatry.

According to the investigations, this sculpture would belong to the artist Melchor Huamán. Although it is said that “The image came from Spain, together with the Virgin of Bethlehem.

The image shows the holy martyr prostrated in a tree affected by pain, tormented with four arrows that are embedded, one at the height of the heart and another in the same direction at the height of the ribs, which would come to be gold, and the other two on the right side that are silver. These arrows that are artistically worked, are adorned with precious stones.

San Sebastian following him way (Walter Coraza Morveli)
San Sebastian following him way (Walter Coraza Morveli)

A well-crafted tunic adorned with precious stones covers the body of Saint Sebastian, while the tree has a realistic appearance, fresh with green leaves and on it one or two parrots that impress with their cries.

The main miracle attributed to the image of the Patron Saint San Sebastián is related to a prolonged plague of smallpox between the years of 1580-1592, which affected the department of Cusco, with the exception of what is currently the district of San Sebastián. , which was attributed to the protection given by the patron saint.

After the event, the image was taken to the cathedral of the City of Cusco and the ecclesiastical chapter of that time established its feast on January 20, attributing the title of Cuzco’s Jury Patron. The best proof of faith through the image occurred in 1922, when a frost devastated the entire department of Cusco and ended the crops that allowed the donation of supplies for the San Sebastian festival. In response, the resources came from donors from the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the Altiplano of Puno, who from then on have a presence at the San Sebastian festival.

Church of San Sebastian Cusco

The Church of San Sebastián was built in the 16th century during the colonial period, located in the province and region of Cusco. Currently, this religious site is considered Cultural Heritage of the Nation, as a Historical Monument.

This monument is one of the 16 churches that belongs to the category of the main cathedral of Cusco, it is also the only one that turns its back on the main cathedral. It has the same history as the other churches of the same category, it was built on a place of great importance for the natives of the place as a form of imposing Christianity.

Inside you can see a large number of important pieces and canvases from the Cusco school, such as the author Diego Quispe Tito, one of the highest representatives.

In September 2016, the church of San Sebastián suffered a serious fire where a large part of the church was destroyed and lost, especially important pieces by Diego Quispe Tito, in which the Ministry of Culture at that time described the event as a « heritage tragedy.

Susphones of Santa Cecilia Band in San Sebastian
Susphones of Santa Cecilia Band in San Sebastian

Traditional Dances of the Feast of San Sebastián Cusco

In the celebration in honor of San Sebastian, you can see traditional dances from the Cusco region. Dancers from the highlands also arrive bringing their troupes, skirts, morenada, diablada.

Throughout this festivity different musical instruments are heard, drums, cymbals, trumpets, rattles, quenas, panpipes, all of these accompany the different dances that participate in these days of celebration.

Qhapaq Chuncho: Qhapac Chuncho San Sebastián, Cusco. Descendants of the last Royal Panakas Chima Raurau. Festivity of the Patron Saint Sebastian.

La danza de los negritos: Dance created in colonial times where its dancers characterize black slaves, wearing black plaster masks and colorful hats, while performing joyful dance steps. In the regions of Huánuco and Ica this dance is also danced.

Los Jilgueros: This dance has its origins in the province of Calca, in Cusco, and is inspired by the caresses and courtships performed by Andean birds called goldfinches.

Turkuy: Popular dance in the provinces of Canchis and Canas, in Cusco, which represents a powerful emperor who carries a golden hammer and who is protected by the Turkuy, represented by the dancers.

Ukuku: Dance of Inca origin that traditionally represents the bear and/or the alpaca, showing a mystical world between the animal and the human. To perform the dance, the dancers wear a costume similar to the skin of an animal and a similar mask.

Carnaval de Ampay: Main dance of the Ampay community, in Cusco, where the song of love is expressed. In this dance, couples collect flowers called T’ikas to start the celebration and culminate performing the “sirvinakuy”, a test marriage of Andean origin.

  • Salud Majeño Dancer
  • Danzante de Siclla en la Fiesta de San Sebastian (Foto: Walter Coraza Morveli)
  • San Sebastian, Kacharpari (Walter Coraza)
  • The caporales dancing in the feast of San Sebastian.

Typical gastronomy of the Feast of San Sebastián Cusco

For the festival of San Sebastián, the best traditional dishes are presented, the best of fast food and drinks, all prepared by local hands, in these 3 days of unforgettable celebration and you eat well and drink well.

On these dates a delicious gastronomic festival is shown, through the different arteries of the neighborhood. There one can easily be tempted by some of these traditional dishes.

Chupe de Peras: The name is very tempting that many people might think that it is a dessert or sweet of this fruit, however, this sweet and tempting name is a purely traditional dish of the district of San Sebastián and that can only be eaten at its parties. appreciate and enjoy its incredible flavor and texture.

Chicharrón: This pork-based dish is inevitable in the different festivities of Cusco, it also accompanies the breakfast of the people of Cusco. It is a typical dish that should be eaten with a good Creole dressing and accompanied by potatoes and boiled corn.

Chiriuchu: The name of this traditional dish comes from the union of two Quechua words: Chiri which means “COLD” and Uchu which means “CHILI” so we can understand what it is: Cold (or spicy) chili, this is the flagship dish of the Cusco region and therefore it is inevitable in all the traditional festivities that take place throughout the year.

Quite apart from these 3 inevitable dishes, you can find, anticuchos, rice with egg, baked guinea pig, second of noodles, barbecues among many other delicacies.

To quench the thirst of the body and the desire to celebrate: You can easily find the rich chicha de jora, strawberry, beers with different brands. There are also non-alcoholic drinks, purple chicha, quinoa chicha, barley soda, passion fruit, among others. The prices of food and drinks are very accessible for the pockets.

  • Chupe de Peras in the List of the Menu Day (Hebert Huamani Jara)
  • Chupe de Peras or Kapchi de Peras, One of the Famous Dish of St Sebastian
  • Chiriuchu, the famous dish of Corpus Christi (Photo by Walter Coraza Morveli)
  • Chicharrones, Cuzco's Favorite Dish (Walter Coraza Morveli)

Brayan Coraza Morveli

Soy completamente cusqueño. Mi profesión es analista de sistemas. Me encanta escuchar y tocar la música andina tanto como bailar break. Me gusta también compartir mi experiencias como cusqueño con gente de otros lados. Una de mis metas es llegar a conocer mi cultura más profundamente y compartirla ampliamente con gente de otras generaciones tanto como con hermanos y hermanas de otros lados de nuestra planeta.

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