Once a year, the patron saint of Cuzco, the Lord of Tremors (Señor de los Temblores), is taken out of the city’s cathedral to be processed through its main streets. This takes place during the Holy Week celebrations, on Holy Monday.
The roots of the procession lie in catastrophe: the statue was originally known as Christ of the Good Death, but was renamed after much of Cuzco was leveled by an earthquake in 1650. The seemingly endless series of aftershocks ceased after the statue was removed from its side chapel within the Cathedral and carried through the streets, and it has been credited as Cuzco’s savior ever since. The stature is also often referred casually referred to as the Black Christ, because the skin darkened over the years due to candle-smoke and the aging of its main wood.
In contrast to other cities, Holy Week in Cuzco has Holy Monday as its main day. On this day, the archbishop oversees mass in the Cathedral from 8am to 12pm, on the hour. The big event, however, is when the statue is taken out of the Cathedral on a large, heavy litter. It is carried by members of different religious fraternities, who bear the weight in shifts as they circle the main square (where Pirwa Posada del Corregidor is located) and advance along the main streets.
Around 60,000 people gather witness the procession. The Plaza de Armas, or Main Square, overflows with spectators, so much so that two large LED screens are set up in strategic points in the city center so that everyone who wants to watch the procession, and thus receive the blessing, can do so. You’ll find one of the screens on the last block of Avenida el Sol, the city’s main street, and in the small square of Plazoleta Espinar.
For its annual outing, the statue is adorned with red ñucchu flowers. You’ll notice the devout throwing these from the streets and balconies- in fact, you can even buy some of these ñucchu flowers yourself from the many women who sell from blankets along the sidewalks of the city’s central streets on this day.
Over the years, the Lord of Tremors has become an iconic symbol of Cuzco, whose blessing is invoked during weddings and baptisms, often referred to in a Quechua-Spanish mix, Taytacha Temblores. Some religious locals believe that the statue’s color darkens as their patron saint realizes miracles. Other superstitions assert that the weight of the litter corresponds to the weight of the sins each carrier bears, or that the statue’s expression portends the good or bad fortune of the year to come.
This year, Holy Monday will fall on March 21st, allowing lucky travelers to immerse themselves in part of the living culture of Cuzco. For a privileged view of the goings on, consider reserving a table in Plus Restaurant‘s balcony- they’re always in high demand on festival days.
As evening falls, bands will begin to play in the main square. Towards the end of the show, there’ll be fireworks as well. These even include a special type of firework which is used throughout Peru during festivals. Known as castillos, castles, they’re precarious wooden structure with powder-filled spiral tubes, or angled rockets with pins through their centers. When ignited, they rotate quickly, producing exciting displays of sparks and colored flames.