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Cusco is the scene of different religious events throughout the year. From the most classic, such as Easter or Christmas, to some much more original and different, such as the festivity of the Velacuy Cross. Today, we want to tell you all the details about this celebration!
Every 3rd of May, the faithful from Cusco go to the streets and fill the churches to celebrate the Velacuy Cross festivity, also known as Cross Vigil, a religious tradition that brings together diverse Cusco customs. Being part of this celebration is a very interesting experience!
History of the Velacuy Cross
With the arrival of the Spaniards to Cusco, the conquerors were imposing their Christian symbols throughout the city (and the country) and eliminating those related to the Inca religion. Thus, the typical Cristian cross was making its way and appearing every day in more corners of the capital of Tahuantinsuyo.
At the beginning, the people of Cuzco took this cross as a representation of their own religion, but little by little the Spaniards succeeded in implanting Christianity among the majority of Cusco’s inhabitants and making the cross the symbol that was already known in Europe: that which reproduces the passion of Christ.
Thus, from the beginning of the eighteenth century, the inhabitants of Cusco began to gather in small meetings at their homes to celebrate this days privately and as a family. From 1950, the year in which a great earthquake shook the Imperial City, the people from Cusco made this day a much important festivity. A worshop for any tourist visiting Cusco during these dates!
How is the Velacuy Cross celebrated today?
Although this event takes place during just two days, its preparation lasts a whole year.
During the night of the 2nd of May, the devoted name a Carguyoc or Majordomo, a person with good purchasing power, who will be in charge of organizing the Velacuy Cross event for next year.
Thus, six months before the arrival of May, the Carguyoc performs the j’urkar, an event in his own home with friends and family with, also, good economic status, in which he offers food, drink and music, with the goal to raise money for the organization of the party.
The following 2nd of May is the day of the descent of the cross, which is moved from the top of a hill to the house of the Carguyoc, where it is placed on an altar built especially for this day. In addition, on the night of the 2nd of May there is an evening with bonfire, punch of brandy or pisco, soup of chicken or lamb and an orchestra that entertains the people with traditional music. Here, as in the previous year, the next Carguyoc is chosen.
On the 3rd of May, the central day of this event, the Cross is adorned with typical Andean fabrics and flowers of the area and it is carried in procession to the nearest church to hold a mass in its honor. At the end of the mass, the Cross returns to the Carguyoc house, where the faithful will enjoy a lunch and various traditional activities.
On the 4th of May, the kacharpari or the farewell party takes place, with a mass in the morning and the transfer of the Cross back to the hill. The most devout go to the hill, where they eat, dance and drink in front of the Cross to say goodbye to it until next year.
Although the great event is performed around a main cross, throughout the department of Cusco there are several crosses to which the faithful make their own parties. There are movable crosses, made of wood and used to carry out dozens of processions, and immovable crosses, made of stone or concrete, visited by the faithfuls to celebrate around them.
As you can see, this is a very special event, since the Christian religion mixes with the mysticism of Cusco creating some very striking days for all the tourists that arrive to our city. If you are lucky enough to be visiting us during these days, enjoy religion, traditional music and food next to the Velacuy Cross. The perfect party to fully understand the traditions and lifestyle of the people of Cusco!