The month of June begins and Cusco gets festive to receive the three most important celebrations of the year: Corpus Christi, Inti Raymi and the Lord of Qoyllur Ritti. After two years without celebrations due to the Coronavirus, 2022 brings back the incredible Corpus Christi procession, in which all the joy, color and effervescence of the Cusco people shines once again. Here we tell you all about this procession.
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Corpus Christi is a Catholic feast that is celebrated all over the world, but nowhere compares to the splendor and sacredness with which it is treated in Cusco. In fact, Cusco's Corpus Christi is the oldest living festival in the Americas, which for more than 450 years has involved the procession of the city's patron saints. This 2022, the feast of Corpus Christi begins on Tuesday, June 14, nine weeks after Holy Thursday.
There are 15 gigantic statues of Saints and Virgins that make up the procession, each one covered with jewels, precious metals, flowers and dressed in new costumes every year. Each saint has his or her parish and devotees, who carry him or her on a platform weighing a ton. It is believed that this custom comes from the festivities of Inca Cusco, in which each family carried the mummies of their ancestors or the deities that protected them. Corpus Christi is above all a popular celebration that no one directs and in which everyone participates, as it is engraved in the DNA of the people of Cusco.
On the first day, all the saints leave their temple on their own and take the procession to the Cathedral of Cusco accompanied by their faithful who bring music, flowers and gifts for the attendees. In charge of this organization are the "Mayordomos" or "Carguyoq" who are chosen each year and who must do everything possible to cover the expenses involved in the celebration. Here the tradition is breathed, for example, in the famous race between San Jerónimo and San Sebastián to see who gets to the Historic Center first. The second day of Corpus Christi involves the departure from the Cathedral, the procession through the Historic Center and the return to the Cathedral of the 15 saints in the following order, who after a week will return to their parishes:
San Antonio (parish of San Cristobal)
2. San Jeronimo (parish of the district of San Jeronimo)
3. San Cristobal (parish of San Cristobal)
4. San Sebastian (parish of the district of San Sebastian)
5. Santa Bárbara (parroquia del distrito de Poroy)
6. Santa Ana (parish of Santa Ana)
7. Santiago Apóstol (parish of Santiago)
8. San Blas (parroquia de San Blas) 9. San Pedro (parroquia de San Pedro)
10. San José (parroquia de Belén)
11. Virgen de la Natividad (parroquia de Almudena)
12. Virgen de los Remedios (iglesia de Santa Catalina)
13. Virgen Purificada (parroquia de San Pedro)
14. Virgen de Belén (parroquia de Belén)
15. Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepción (Basílica de la Catedral)
Chiriuchu is one of Cusco's most famous dishes, but it is usually only served during the month of June. It is believed to be one of the few remaining gastronomic samples from Inca times, being a dish that is served cold (chiri in Quechua) and is an impressive mix of ingredients. Various types of meat are served such as baked guinea pig, boiled chicken, charqui or jerky, chorizo and blood sausage. All this is accompanied by fish roe, seaweed, roasted corn, cheese, rocoto and torrejas made of corn and pumpkin. We recommend everyone to try this incredible dish, although for vegans you can also find a great variety of fruits in the streets, being the custard apple one of the main ones produced at this time.
Corpus Christi is much more than a procession of saints, there are a variety of activities that take place on these dates and one of them is the artistic competitions. Usually, each parish or neighborhood has its own troupes of musicians and dancers who compete against each other. These troupes not only dance for their Catholic saints, but there are also performances in honor of pre-Hispanic divinities, which shows the true multiculturalism that lies behind this celebration.
Thousands of people attend Corpus Christi and if you want to have a good place to observe the celebration you should arrive early or, even better, make a reservation at a restaurant with a balcony to see everything from above. Also, it is best not to carry too many valuables and be aware of our backpacks to avoid any theft or misunderstanding. The strong sun of Cusco also makes it necessary to bring sunscreen, hat and water to avoid being dehydrated. And if you want to further enrich your experience, we recommend hiring a guide who can explain every aspect of the procession, as it can be very chaotic and full of information that is not so easily understood.