This Saturday and Sunday (May 14th and 15th), the town of Urubamba in the Sacred Valley of the Incas will celebrate a festival in honor of its patron. Señor de Torrechayoc. And like many Andean towns, Urubamba celebrates its faith with a riot of dance and color!
The history of the Lord of Torrechayoc goes back more than 350 years, when landslides brought on by an earthquake shut down the roads which connected Urubamba with other valley towns, Lares and Yucay. Those who regularly transited the route, from farmers to Jesuits, were forced to search for a new route to overcome the isolation. They discovered a way by crossing the lands of Yanahuara Hacienda, whose owner charged excessive tolls to those trying to reach the other towns. The Urubamba Mutual Protection Society arose to push for the development of the province, and with the help of other valley towns it successfully pushed for public works which led to the opening of a road to Lares in 1867.
Shortly thereafter, at an obligatory stop along the new routes, Sicllac’asa Pass, the cross of what would become known as the Lord of Torrechayoc was discovered, half buried in snow. Soon locals spoke about how those traveling upon the roads dreamt of their savior while confronting snow drifts, and he appeared in the form of the cross. The Society declared the Lord of Torrechayoc its patron saint, as did the town of Urubamba.
The festival has been taking place since the early 1880s, when a chapel was built to house the cross. Many traveled to the new chapel seeking good fortune for their lives, health, and businesses.
The old Urubamba Mutual Protection Society eventually morphed into the Devotees of the Lord of Torrechayoc Society, which is responsible for the festivities each year. Among the most important events is the Pilgrimage to Sicllac’asa Pass.
The festival begins on Saturday morning, with mass held in Nogalpampa Stadium. (The stadium is easy to find, as it’s located on the town main street, next to Pirwa Urubamba Guesthouse, our bed and breakfast in the Sacred Valley of the Incas!)
After mass, there’ll be a presentation of more than 30 folkloric dances. It’s always exciting to see the traditional costumes associated with each dance, which never fail to be colorful and surprising. The faithful visit Lord Torrechayoq (Señor de Torrechayoq) in his sactuary before finishing the day with castillos, precarious-looking wooden structures with powder-filled tubes or angled rockets with pins through their center. When ignited, they rotate, shooting off sparks and colored flames while they do so!
On Sunday, there’s the main procession. The cross, adorned with jewels and carried on a litter, will be accompanied by folkloric dancers. During the following days, locals will delight in a series of rodeos, cockfights, and bullfights which involve unarmed men and in which the bulls are not killed.
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