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Peruvian Festivals and Rituals on May

Marinera Festival


Wine Festival

Peruvian Paso Horse Festival

Festival of the Holy Crosses

Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Protectors of the Peruvian Fishermen

Independence Day

Saint Rose of Lima and America

Spring Festival

Lord of Miracles

All Saints, Day of the Death (Halloween next day)






Qoyllur R'iti

: Quispicanchis, Cuzco
Date: 1st week of May

Each year the people of the district of Ocongate (Quispicanchis) perform a ritual whose external aspect appears to be the image of Christ, but whose real objective is to bring Man closer to Nature.

The ritual, associated with the fertility of the land and the worship of Apus, the spirits of the mountains, forms part of the greatest festival of native Indian nations in the hemisphere: Qoyllur Rit'i. The main ceremony is held at the foot of Mount Ausangate, at 4,700 meters, where temperatures often plunge below freezing. The ritual brings thousands of pilgrims, including shepherds, traders and the merely curious who gather at the shrine at Sinakara. Popular belief has it that the infant Christ, dressed as a shepherd, appeared to a young highland Indian boy, Marianito Mayta, and they quickly became friends. When Mayta's parents found them dressed in rich tunics, they informed the local parish priest, Pedro de Landa, who attempted in vain to capture the infant Christ who had disappeared and left behind only a stone. Marianito died immediately, and the image of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit'i appeared on the stone. Today, the festival starts off with the day of the Holy Trinity, when more than 10,000 pilgrims climb to the snowline, accompanied by all sorts of dancers in full costume (chauchos, qollas, pabluchas or ukukus) portray various mythical characters. The ukukus, or bears, are the guardians of the Lord and the Apu mountain spirits and apachetas, stone cairns built along the way by pilgrims to atone for their sins. The ukukus maintain order during religious ceremonies. A group of hefty queros, members of what is probably Peru's purest Quechua community, dress up as pabluchas and set out for the mountaintop, at 6,362 meters in search of the Snow Star which is reputedly buried within the mountain.

On their way back down to their communities, they haul massive blocks of ice on their backs for the symbolic irrigation of their lands with holy water from the Ausangate.

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Virgin of Chapi - Virgen de Chapi

: Chapi, Arequipa
Date: May 1st.

Every year, thousands of pilgrims cross the desert from the city of Arequipa to the sanctuary of Chapi to worship the image of the Virgin of Purification, today known as the Virgen de Chapi.

In 1790, the parish priest of Pocsi, Juan de Dios José Tamayo, tried to move the small image to another community and failed, reportedly because the statue suddenly became too heavy to move. News of the miracle spread like wildfire, and today the faithful take around 15 hours to walk 45 km through the night, leaning on rustic walking staffs to reach the deserted spot located at 2,420 meters above sea level.

Before the first stop, the pilgrims gather stones of varying sizes which they will leave at Tres Cruces (Three Crosses) next to the road, forming the so-called apachetas which symbolize the weariness and sins that the faithful leave behind them.

The same thing occurs at Alto de Hornilla and then at Siete Toldos, 15 km from the spot, with countless candles flickering in the night. The following day, in Chapi, the virgin is borne aloft in a procession over carpets of flower petals. At night, next to the sanctuary, pilgrims set off fireworks and sell foodstuffs.

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Festival of the Crosses

: Lima, Apurimac, Ayacucho, Junin, Ica, Cuzco
Date: May 3

This festival, which is widespread in the highlands, is organized by the members of each community who decorate their respective crosses and prepare then for the procession to neighboring churches.

The celebration is linked to giving thanks for bountiful harvests, a custom maintained by peasant farmers since the pre-Hispanic era.

The festival often features folk music shows involving danzantes de tijeras (scissors dancers). In ancient times, the danzaq or scissors dancers would perform their daring feats on top of the church belltowers.

Even today, the dancers strive to outdo each other, performing extraordinary feats of derring-do.

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Señor de Muruhuay / Christ of Muruhuay

: Acobamba, Junin
Date: May 3

Left to their fate by officials of the vice-regency, those sick with smallpox (muru: smallpox, huay: house) were allegedly healed by an image of Christ that took shape on a stone slab at the foot of Mount Shalacoto (2,959 meters above sea level), and has remained there ever since. This spot, located in the district of Acobamba, 12 km from the town of Tarma in the department of Junin, is Peru's foremost pilgrimage center. The celebration of this image abounds in pre-Hispanic rites dominated by elements such as water, earth and stone. Today, the worship rituals begin the night before with a fireworks display. On the main day, after a Mass held in Quechua, the devout deposit a "letter to God".

Then everyone returns to Tarma in a procession headed by the mayordomo (the organizer of the festivities), his wife and troupes of dancers including the caracolillos and negritos, who compete in dances such as the abrecalle and the chutos.

After the dancing, everyone settles down to lunch featuring typical Andean dishes such as Cuy Chactado fried guinea pig served with peanuts and beans. Over the following days, the locals dance the famous chonguinada in the streets of Acobamba, that have been carpeted in flower petals.

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Qoyllur Rit'i
Virgin of Chapi
Festival of the Crosses

Photos courtesy of peruecologico

carnival in cajamarca
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