60 days after Easter, the Catholic Church celebrates the day of Corpus Christi throughout the world, but in the city of Cusco this party is celebrated in a unique way being one of the largest religious festivals in the region and the southern part of Peru.
This year, the central day will be on Thursday 15th June, this day the Plaza de Armas will be filled with local, national and foreign tourists who commemorate this celebration every year, which 15 images of Saints and virgins are the center of attention.
The festival of Corpus Christi Cuzco has its origins in the pre-Hispanic period since several chroniclers affirm that near the winter solstice in the month of June the Incas removed the mummies of their ancestors in procession around the Huacaypata (current Plaza de Armas) Is why in the seventeenth century the viceroy Francisco de Toledo in order to end this celebration orders that the mummies be replaced by sculptures of saints and virgins and these in turn be venerated by groups or parishes of Indians who should to accompany the image during the celebrations.
At the beginning of this celebration, images of saints and virgins from Ecuador, Chile and Argentina participated, which were accompanied by their parishioners and priests to begin the celebrations lasting about two weeks. We can appreciate some samples of how was this celebration in Arzobispal Cusco Museum, in the series of “Corpus Christi” which is adjudged to Diego Quispe Tito.
At the moment 15 images are those that participate of the celebration coming from the different parishes of the city of Cusco, being those of San Jerónimo and San Sebastián those that travel until 10 km of distance to be able to arrive at the center of the city and make its entrance to The cathedral of Cusco along with the other images. This procession is given on the previous Wednesday called “Entry of Corpus”, the processions of each image begin very early with various religious celebrations.
At midday all the images will already be in Santa Clara Street already to go to the Cathedral of Cusco where they will stay until the next day which is Central Day.
On Thursday, Corpus celebrates with a Holy Mass in the Plaza de Armas where the 15 images of saints and virgins are accompanied by their carguyoc, religious,political authorities and their devotees, who will be accompanying during the procession. The procession begins with the Santísimo (which represents the body of Christ), which is transported by the Archbishop in a silver chariot that was donated by the Dean Doctor Francisco de Goyzueta Maldonado, this carriage surrounds the whole main square and then all the Images will do the same accompanied by their political authorities, religious, carguyoc, devotees and group of musicians (Q`aperos).
The procession ends around 5:00 pm and the images will be stored in the Cathedral until next Thursday or also called as “Octava de Corpus” in which all the images once again bordered the Plaza de Armas for later return each one to their respective parishes accompanied by typical dances and some of the Peruvian and Bolivian altiplano.
Chiri Uchu Festival During the days of this celebration in the Plaza San Francisco ( two blocks from main square) the gastronomic fair of the Chiri Uchu (cold Chili) or plate of the Cusco is realized which consists of cuy (guinea pig), hen, egg of fish, cheese, corn´s tortilla among other local products .
This dish has its origins in Inca times, according to some historians the wife of Inca Roca (sixth Inca mayor) whenever her husband returned from his wars; she prepared a special dish with several products brought from the coast, jungle and the Andes. This could be the predecessor of the now famous Chiri Uchu that as we already said consists of products of the three natural regions of Peru.