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Corpus Christi

by guest blogger, Kezia Huseman

This past Thursday was Corpus Christi, and as it is every year, the Plaza de Armas in Cusco was alive and filled with festivity as thousands of people celebrated the Holy Host.

Ironically, this year’s celebration started with a country-wide Earthquake Drill at 10:00 AM.  As soon as that was over, the celebration got underway.  The fifteen saints and virgins from area cathedrals were already on display in front of the Main Cathedral for people to admire starting early in the morning, but before the procession around the Plaza de Armas could begin, there was a Mass, celebrating the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Mass for this celebration is always held outside on the steps of the Main Cathedral facing the Plaza, so that all who want to can take part in it.  People crowd as close to the steps as they can in hopes of being in reach of a small morsel of bread and a small sip of wine.

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Men carrying San Sebastián during the procession.

After Mass and communion, the saints and virgins are one by one paraded around the Plaza de Armas in a great procession, celebrating the Holy Host, the Catholic Church, and ancient Incan culture.  Each saint and virgin is ornately decorated in the finest silks and other fabrics, sewn with gold-leaf and silver-leaf threads.  Each is carried around the Plaza, accompanied by incense, flowers, dancers, bands, and faithful followers.  Meanwhile, thousands of people crowd into the Plaza to watch and honor these beloved saints and virgins.

Chiriuchu is the other beloved element of the day, even for those who are non-religious.  Chiriuchu, accompanied by a cold beer or fresh coconut water, is cherished by all, young and old.  For foreigners, the dish may or may not appeal to one’s taste buds, but it is definitely worth a try, even if only for the experience. This traditional Cusqueñan platter, served with chicha or beer, is compiled of chicken, pork, sausage, cured meat, a corn tortilla, seaweed, caviar, toasted corn, hot pepper, cheese, and, the star of the meal, guinea pig – which was a common source of meat for the Incas.

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Virgen de La Inmaculada Concepción in the Plaza de Armas.

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Women dancing in traditional costume during the procession.

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Virgen de Los Remedios in front of La Compañia.

With Corpus Christi over, the season of festivities has officially begun in Cusco.  For the next couple of months, the streets, plazas, and parks of Cusco will be filled with celebrations of all kinds.

What are they celebrating?  Everything…

Some of us get so wrapped up in our lives or careers or whatever else we may have going on that we sometimes lose sight of the important things.  Peru is a simpler place than most of us are used to, but what Peru lacks in luxury and advancement, they make up for in their appreciation of life.  The upcoming celebrations involve family, friends, music, dancing, and food.  After all, aren’t those (or most of those) the things that matter most?

For more history about Corpus Christi, check out last year’s blog.

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