Archive for June, 2011
Ok, this I couldn´t resist…
We´ve been talking a lot about Inti Raymi and Corpus Christi, so as an addendum let me present to you what must be the most dramatic video about Corpus Christi I´ve seen:
When the Saints Come Marching In…
The best place to celebrate Corpus Christi is in Cusco, where the event takes on a character not found anywhere else. Saints and Virgins lavishly adorned in elaborate clothing and ornaments process along the same streets where, in the time of the Inca Empire, richly attired and bejeweled mummies once processed. For Cusco, this is the year´s most important and extravagant religious festival.
The day before the main event, patron saints from the 15 parish districts head towards the Main Square´s Cathedral in separate processions to the Cathedral to greet the Body of Christ (Corpus Christi). They´ll arrive showing off their newest ornate clothing and adornments and accompanied by musicians and parishioners. They´ll spend the night in the Cathedral. The next morning they´ll find their way to large altars in the Main Square decked out with flowers and tree branches, spiritual images, standards, mirrors, and more. The morning of the main day, Thursday the 23rd of this month, the Arch Bishop will lead the Te-Deum. Then the Golden Sun of Custody which holds the Sacred Host will be paraded around the Square in a silver carriage. (An 18th century piece, the Golden Custody weighs in at 26.7kg and is 1.2m in height. It´s made of gold and adorned with 331 pearls, 263 diamonds, 221 green emeralds, 89 amethysts, 62 rubies, 43 topazes, 17 diamonds, 5 sapphires and an agate.)
Once the Holy Sacrament finishes its procession, it´s time for the Saints and Virgins to parade together to the sounds of Peru´s largest church bell, the 16th century María Angola, and traditional music while dancers perform. Some of the dances you´ll be able to see are the Mestiza Qoyacha and Capaq Qoya. In typical Andean fashion, costumed characters representing different aspects of Andean and/or Incan mythology will be in attendance entertaining the crowds, such as qollas, chauchos, pabluchas, and ukukus among them. Afterwards, they´ll stay in the Cathedral for seven days. On the Octava, they´re will be another parade before the Saints and Virgins separate to parade back to their respective home parishes.
A Place to Watch the Show…
The next two weeks are full of events in the Imperial city. Corpus Christi is on the same day that the night serenades to Cusco will take place in the Main Square, and the very next day is the principal day of Inti Raymi, the Festival of the Sun. Cusco is also celebrating its anniversary and Machu Picchu´s Centenary. The city´s streets have become an animated stage for colorfully costumed dancers, musicians, and revelers. Give some thought to securing a comfortable spot from which to watch the action, because thousands will congregate in the Main Square in the next several days. Pirwa´s Posada del Corregidor Bed & Breakfast has an in-house restaurant with a balcony overlooking the Main Square. You can sit in the shade and enjoy a drink without missing the spectacle or having to jostle for a spot. Unlike most of the tourism sector here in the city, we offer the same low price throughout the year- there´ll be no price hikes during the festivities.
What to eat…
During the Wednesday night vigil while the Saints and Virgins are in the Cathedral, families will prepare and share 12 traditional dishes. On Thursday, one of these dishes is preeminent- you´ll see it everywhere you go: Chiriuchu (Cold Chili Pepper). It´s a cold dish assembled with pieces of guinea pig, and other meats alongside Andean cheese, toasted corn kernels, tortillas, bread, and more. The dancing and music don´t stop once the patron saints enter the Cathedral, but the eating and drinking definitely starts.
Just four hours from the Imperial City of the Incas, Cusco, is the scenic colonial town of Paucartambo, instantly recognizable with its red-roofed mud-brick homes. Once a year this sleepy town bursts into bright colors and frenzied activity. From all over Peru people gather to celebrate Paucartambo´s Virgen of Carmen Festival. From July 15th-18th devotees and revelers venerate the Mamacha Carmen, patron of the mestizos.
It all starts in Paucartambo´s Main Square, where singing quechua choirs kick off the festivities. The streets fill with traditionally costumed dancers accompanying the Mamacha Carmen statue (its origins are unknown but it is thought to have been brought from Spain in the 16th century). Elaborately costumed Sajra dancers, representing demons, perform on the rooftops, pausing their clownery and dances to hide their faces and howl in fear as the Mamacha Carmen passes in front of them.
Paucartambo takes this festival seriously- each family group in the town represents a “house” responsible for displaying a certain costume and dance. Those who live abroad come bearing proof of their family ties and thereby earn the right to dance, practicing for months for the main event and many times enduring some hazing along the way so that they´ll take their responsibility seriously…
The festival includes an mock holy battle between the faithful and the demons before concluding with the farewell festival, the kacharpari.
Don´t forget to see…
The famous sunrise over Manú Jungle at Three Golden Crosses Lookout, in the Acjanaco Mountain Pass 35km from Paucartambo is not to be missed. In the months of May, June, and July the clouds create an array of forms, colors and tonal gradations not seen in other areas or in other parts of the year. Locals believe, due to the illusions created by the clouds, that during this time the sun comes out dancing.
Nearby, one can find the Ninamarca Tombs archeological complex. It comprises 17 stone and clay tower mausoleums known as Chullpas, built to house mummified Incan remains. The Watoqto arqueological site is can also be found in this area- come and admire the precise stonework with which the Incas constructed these inclined walls and circular constructions.
There´s only one week left until the main Intí Raymi celebration kicks off! June is considered the best time to stop by Cusco for good reason- those of you who are already in the city know that Cusco´s been dancing for a week already, the faithful are setting off for the hemisphere´s largest indigenous pilgrimage, Qoyllur Rit´i, and the city is anxiously working its way towards Machu Picchu´s Centennial at the beginning of next month (another big one- check back here for info!). Preparations have been underway all year. Right now everything is building up to Intí Raymi´s main day on June 24th. The festivities will continue into next month with Machu Picchu´s 100th anniversary, and no expense has been spared, so don´t miss seeing the Imperial City at its best!
It is in honor of the Inca´s supreme divinity, the first day of the Incan solar calendar, and the winter solstice that Cusco explodes into color and elaborately costumed celebration every June. The Festival of the Sun was the Inca´s most important annual ceremony, supposedly dating back to the very first Inca, Pachacutec. After a long period of prohibition spanning the Spanish colonial period and its aftermath, Intí Raymi sprung back with a force- nowadays, 50,000 spectators and more than 500 actors, dancers, and musicians participate in the festivities. If you can´t make it to the main event, don´t worry- the carnivalesque atmosphere continues in a with dance competitions, free concerts, street fairs and parades in Cusco´s main streets. It won´t end until next month after the Machu Picchu Centennial, so keep checking back here for more info on Cusco´s festivities.
Official Program: Friday, 24th of June 2011
08:15 The Tahauntinsuyo rainbow flag is raised in the Main Square by the 5th Mountain Brigade
08:30 Cusco´s Archbishop performs Mass and the Te Deum at the Basilica Cathedral
Cusco travels back in time as characters of importance in the time of the Inca Empire assemble for the Incan Emperor´s Salute to the Sun. The ceremony begins amid the sounds of conch shells and traditional Andean Instruments. Afterwards, the characters will process along flower-strewn streets to the Main Square.
10:30 Act II: Meeting of the Times at the Main Square
Epochs clash as the Inca, from a large huaca (Incan Altar) constructed in the Plaza de Armas, officially addresses the Mayor of Cusco
During the principal ceremony, Intí Raymi reaches its culmination with a spectacular performance steeped in tradition. It includes the Chicha de Jora rite, a simulated black llama sacrifice, and the fire rite. There will be dancing, jubilation, divining from llama blood and viscera, and sacred bonfires.
Tips for Travelers
- Tickets aren´t necessary to see the main ceremony at Sacsayhuamán- if you don´t mind celebrating from a distance, you can grab a spot hillside local-style. For those who want prime seating, however, there are still tickets being sold.
- So many people come for the festivities in June/July that rooms are hard to come by. If you can, try to reserve in advance. Also, be prepared for price hikes in transport, lodging, and food. (Pirwa´s policy to keep prices stable, so we´re offering the same low prices we do all year long.)
- June is wintertime in Cusco, the weather is variable: cold in the mornings and evenings, and sunny and hot in the afternoon. Come prepared with sunscreen and bring warm layers.
- The streets of Cusco are more crowded now than at any other time of year- with dancers and musicians in the streets and spectators crowding the sidewalks you need to remain cautious of pick-pockets hoping to profit from your distraction.
The Nazca civilization, successor to the Paracas, flourished between 100-800 CE in the river valleys of the Nazca Rio Grande drainage and Ica Valley, beside the dry southern coast of Peru, now the Nazca Province in the Ica Region. Today they are mostly known for having produced striking polychrome ceramics with 15 or more distinct colors, equally detailed textiles, a still-functioning system of underground aqueducts, and the Nazca Lines. This agriculture-based society was eventually destroyed by devastating floods, which the Nazca perhaps exacerbated by gradually cutting down Mesquite trees to accommodate more agriculture.
Life in Many Colors
The Nazca communicated through the symbols on their art, as they had no writing system. Major themes include mythical beings with animal/bird/fish characteristics, mythical killer whales, spotted cat, horrible bird, harvester gods, serpentine creatures, the use of the hallucinogenic San Pedro cactus, warfare scenes, and decapitation scenes. One look at some of these intricate and bizarre pieces and you´ll agree that the Nazca were the original surrealists! (Probably due to some of that San Pedro cactus…)
The Desert Mummies
On the slightly more macabre side…if you´re interested in gaining a true understanding of the history of Nazca culture, you can´t skip the mummies of the ancient necropolis of Chauchillas. Thanks to resin painted on corpses during burial rites, as well the dry climate of the Peruvian desert, the mummified human remains at Chauchillas are remarkably well-preserved. Despite a thousand years of age, bodies still retain hair and soft tissue such as skin. You´ll also observe what are known as “trophy heads”- severed heads with holes bored through the skull in order to allow a rope through. These are thought to have served either as battle trophies or as ceremonial items. (Don´t worry about the poor bodies left without heads…in what might be the worst trade in history, the Nazca would thoughtfully leave them “head jars”, ceramic vessels with heads painted on them.) Although most of the valuables have been sacked by tomb raiders, the mummies and archeological artifacts left behind and on display today offer priceless clues to ancient Nazca cultures.
To sustain life in their extremely arid environment, the Nazca built an impressive system of underground aqueducts which remain in use to this day, although some modifications have been made. Underground channels lined with riverocks (because mortar would not allow water to enter) known as puquios tap into subsurface water which travels to subterranean aquifers before being transported to irrigation canals or deposited into reservoirs. Manholes were placed along the surface so people could enter for maintenance. The length of the channels is estimated through the distances covered by manholes, since the channels are too dangerous to explore underground. Cantalloc has some of the best preserved channels, if you´re interested in touring this admirable feat, check the tour site.
The Mystery of the Nazca Lines
There are many competing theories regarding the purpose and method of construction of the Nazca Lines, large geoglyphs discovered in the Nazca region. These pictorial depictions of animals and geometric shapes cover miles of the desert floor. Due to their large scale they can really only be appreciated by flying over them, which is a popular activity for visitors to Peru. As one of Peru´s most famous sites, this one can´t be missed. Some researchers theorize that they were created for the gods to look upon them from above or ceremonial pathways, while others suggest they were some sort of calendar with astronomical alignments that would aid in planting and harvesting of crops.
There´s lots more to see in Nazca, which we´ll hopefully get to in a subsequent post. If you´re planning on stopping by, however, there´s a centrally located Pirwa Hostel there- with free internet so you can keep checking the blog….