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Cusco is the setting of different religious events throughout the whole year. From the more classic ones like Holy Week or Christmas, to ones that are very different and original like the Cruz Velacuy celebration – the festivity we want to tell you about all of its details.
Every May 3rd, the faithful people from Cusco fill the streets and churches to celebrate the Cruz Velacuy celebration, also known as Vigilia de la Cruz – a religious tradition that gathers diverse customs from Cusco. Participating in this celebration is a very interesting experience!
History of Cruz Velacuy
With the arrival of the Spaniards to Cusco, the conquistadores began to impose their Christian symbols throughout the city (and the country) and eliminating those related to the Inca religion. This is why the typical Christian cross began appearing in more and more places of the Tahuantinsuyo capital.
At the beginning, the people from Cusco embraced this image as a representation of their own religion, but little by little the Spaniards achieved to establish Christianism among the majority of the inhabitants from Cusco and making the cross a symbol already known in Europe: the one that reproduces Christ’s passion.
So ever since the beginning of the XVIII century, the people from Cusco began gathering in small reunions in their houses to celebrate this festivity privately with their family. It was since 1950, year in which a major earthquake shook the Imperial City, that the people from Cusco made this day a much bigger celebration. A cult spectacle for any tourist that visits Cusco during these dates!
How is the Cruz Velacuy festivity celebrated nowadays?
Even though this event takes place for only two days, its preparation lasts a whole year.
During the night of May 2nd a Carguyoc or Mayordomo is named, a person with good income and who will be in charge of organizing the celebration of Cruz Velacuy for the following year.
Six months before May, the Carguyoc holds an event called j’urkar in his own house with family and friends that also have good income and offers food, drinks, and music for the purpose of raising money to organize the party.
The following May 2nd is the descent of the cross which is taken down from the top of a hill to the Carguyoc’s house where it is placed on an altar built especially for this day. Also, a campfire evening party takes place during the night of May 2nd which includes drinking aguardiente punch or pisco, eating hen’s or lamb’s broth, and an orchestra entertains the party with traditional music. Here is where the next Carguyoc is chosen, just like the previous year.
On May 3rd, the main day of the event, the Cross is decorated with typical Andean fabrics and flowers from the region and it is taken in procession to the nearest church to hold a mass in its honor. At the end of the mass, the Cross is returned to the Carguyoc’s house where the faithful will enjoy a lunch and a variety of traditional activities.
On May 4th, the farewell party or kacharpari takes place with a mass in the morning and the relocation of the Cross back to the hill. The most devotional attend this event where they eat, dance and drink in front of the Cross to say farewell until next year.
Although the main event takes place in association to a principal Cross, in all of the Cusco department there are different crosses to which the faithful hold their own festivities. There are moveable crosses made of wood and used in dozens of processions, and crosses that cannot be moved made of stone or concrete which are visited by the faithful to celebrate around them.
As you can see, this is a very special event because the Christian religion is mixed with Cusco’s mysticism, developing into very attractive days for all of the tourists that arrive to our city. If you are lucky enough to be visiting us during these dates, you will enjoy religion, traditional food and music next to the Cruz Velacuy. The perfect celebration to get to know the traditions and lifestyle of Cusco town from up close!