In the Catholic World, Corpus Christi takes place 60 days after the Easter Resurrection. It celebrates the Transubstantiation Mystery, which means, the changing of bread and wine into the blood and flesh of Christ. Each year Cusco celebrates two capital holidays, one right after the other. Each year, like the two faces of a coin, Corpus Christi precedes Inti Raymi. Two holidays where the Andean ethos
of the ancient Capital of the Inca Empire is not only preserved but receives new forces, Remote creations from ancient pre-Columbian cultures Many times absorbed and transformed as they melted with the occidental heritage. This way the Sun of the Incas will turn into a visual metaphor of Christ, Ancient Inca emblems will be redefined to resemble the solar disc in the Holy Monstrance, As an image of the Son of God, center of the universe and synthesis of Time and History. CORPUS IN THE LAND OF THE INCAS This is Cusco, the ancient Capital of the Inca Empire, the one the Spanish Conquerors called Head of all the Kingdoms of Perú. This is the oldest city in America. Seven hundred years of history, that condenses the greatest splendor of Andean cultures and their fusion with the Western and Christian Worlds. Probably here, better than anywhere else, this fertile marriage of Hispanic and Andean cultures is shown. Complete streets of geometrical patterns… … Great Spanish white walls placed on massive stone x Inca walls… … Churches … Belfries… Small squares… Bell gables… Façades… And all the red-tiled roofs… Moreover, the red of the roof tiles covering all ceilings. This same city gave birth to La Sierra de Plata and El Dorado myths in the XVI Century. These stories appeared just because of the legendary greatness and magnificence of the Empire. For almost five hundred years Cusco has celebrated Corpus Christi as its main holiday. ON THE EVE OF CORPUS (The Entrance) Pututos, traditional seashell horns, sound in all streets and squares around the city… This is the signal; the moment has come to move the Holy Images of the Patron Saints from their different parish churches to the Metropolitan Basilica for the Corpus Christi procession. Today is a great holiday for Cusco. The city proudly shows its flag, which brings to mind the Inca Empire as the colors of the Rainbow. This is the sign that appeared before the founders of the Empire and their successors took as a banner. From very early on the eve of the great procession, parishioners gather in neighborhoods, parishes, fraternities and brotherhoods. Under the command of their leaders. People arrive with their images, carrying their banners and accompanied by musical bands. Chicha, aguardiente, local beverages and beer help to keep up the enthusiasm of the participants. A brief Andean ceremony – la tinka – demands to toast first with Mother Land ´La Pacha Mama¨ … to thank her for all favors received. Another tradition is also here. These dancers, dressed for a magic and religious Andean ritual, give a magnificent prologue to the great party that is going to take place. Here everything has a meaning. This group for example is made up of two kinds of characters: Los Chunchos from Antisuyo, with their colorful feathers, represent the presence of the Inca Empire in the tropical valleys and the Amazon it is like a reminder of El Dorado. … And these others, are ukukos or pabluchas. Magic characters with their faces covered with ski masks to be recognized and respected by the crowd. These men have arrived from the great celebration of Qoyllur Ritti, also named Lord of the Ice or Bright Star of the Snow, this ceremony took place just a day before, by the Ausangate the snow covered sacred mountain south of Cusco. The Corpus Christi procession is a symbiosis It gathers the ancient Inca devotion with the actual Catholic devotion from the Christian Culture. These mysterious characters with whistling voices are called to keep up the discipline during Q´oyllur Ritti, where they will climb up to an altitude of seventeen thousand feet, carrying these huge ice blocks on their backs. On the Tuesday prior to Corpus Christi, during Qoyllur Ritti, we have a pilgrimage of more than 80 thousand peasants, all of them Indian. They offer lots of faith, of hope and fraternal charity; they all feel sons of the same God, brothers of the same faith. These pieces of ice will be shared between all assistants, but they will also be taken to their communities, not only to guarantee purification of men and things but as a fertility ritual linked to the farming cycle. Morning goes on, and the images of saints arrive for a previous meeting in Santa Clara Church, as it is a tradition, once all of them have gathered, they will leave towards the Cathedral. This procession is called “La Entrada”, the entrance. Many people have come not only from Cusco nearby, but from far in the Andean nations, the south of Perú and the north of Bolivia and Chile. We are a certain amount of people who support the community and we have to participate with pututos and with the image of Saint Jerónimo,. our ancestors taught us, this is a custom we have to perpetuate. I live there in Bolivia. I have been coming for two years from there to accompany St. Joseph: I have faith, I am doing this with a lot of faith, I know he is going to help me, I don’t ask for much… Towards noon, the strokes of Santa Clara´s belfry, announces the moving of the saints to the Cathedral… this moving started very early in fact, from their original parishes, at dawn. At dawn in the San Jerónimo district, south of the city and about half hour from downtown, the bells call the neighbors, soon they will leave towards the town carrying the image of their Patron Saint: Saint Jerónimo. In San Jerónimo, the procession starts accompanied by the musical band and the bang of camaretazos, the fireworks that break the silence in the peaceful Andean morning. At the same time, something similar happens in the other fifteen Cusco parishes that prepare their own patrons, to gather in downtown Cusco. Meanwhile, two miles away from the city, the little virgin, La Virgencita de Poroy, crosses the mountains carried by a few carguyocs, the porters who will increase on their way to Cusco. These few brothers, followed by an unfailing musical band, carry their female Patron Saint, while the sun slowly heats this chilly morning. During the day the St. Jerónimo procession has grown more numerous. Crossing fields, Poroy´s little virgin does not stop, crossing mountains and getting closer to Cusco. At noon, Saint Jerónimo has arrived at the Saint Sebastian Church to make a little stop on his way. This is a fine opportunity to have a mass to honor two of the most devoted and traditional Patron Saints and for them to receive tribute from the crowd. Later, they will march together, St. Jerónimo leading the way. Soon and dramatically, it is St. Sebastian´s time His heavy image will defy the laws of gravity, descending the atrium steps with enormous effort from the porters. Then everything will be ready to pass to the last stretch to the Imperial City, to Cusco, “Rome of the Indians and Center of the American World”. We are in Santa Clara, gathering point for all Saints before going to the Cathedral. Here the last arrangements to the images are made. From Santísima Virgen de Belén, the Patron Saint of Cusco to Virgen de los Remedios, a beautiful and venerable image donated by Emperor don Carlos. Finally, all the images are together, they will be arranged with special care, every one trying to look better than his neighbor and trying as well to improve the last year’s appearance. This Cusco Clarisas Temple may be one of the most eloquent icons of the religious and baroque character of this city: its roofs heavily decorated, its walls embellished with pictures from the famous Cusco School of Painting and altars amazingly rich, full of mirrors and entirely covered with gold foil. This incredible Cusco representation sums up almost five hundred years of history and faith! A faith that is increased as the parishes move their Saints to the Metropolitan Cathedral, whispering a prayer to the Holy Virgin, Mamacha de Belén. The first to appear is St. Jerónimo, in the middle of the noise of the crowd and the march played by the band. Saint Jeronimo is followed by his court of masters –los mandones- they play pututos, horns made of a sea shells, that announce the solemn entrance of their Patron Saint . The image is also preceded by a group of dancers; their masks are a parody of the white men or Spaniards, the ¨mistis¨. Then, the Saint Christopher image, carried by neighbors of his parish. The popular belief says it is not only one of the biggest litters but the heaviest. The weight of this image gave origin to the legend that says that the image hides in its interior a ¨huaca¨, an ancient sacred Inca stone. Every now and then it seems like the image will smash against the crowd which roars with a cry close to panic. Suddenly, it seems like men from different parishes will break out in a fight. In addition, disputing the honor of carrying the image of their Patron Saint. They are whimsical, brave, and daring, and of course proud… proud of carrying on their shoulders one of the most admired and popular saints of the city. With the images go la peana, joyfully moved by the young scoundrels of the parish. This is one of the most important social initiation rituals for Cusco’s children. This phenomenon relates to the moving of many Patron Saints. There is no child between ten and twelve years old in this city, who misses participating in the ritual that practically marks the transition from childhood to puberty. These processions are different in the seriousness or solemnity of other Catholic processions in other parts of the World. A misinformed spectator could think this is total chaos up to the point of breaking into a massive fight, when one Saint ‘s porters argue with others to hurry them up or to move out of the way to let them arrive first at the Cathedral. This celebration also marks a great spirit of rivalry and competition. During the day all saints will be marched to the historical Cathedral of Cusco Preceding other saints and virgins, the magnificent image of St. Sebastian passes, carried by their barefoot , robust porters. After Saint Sebastian, come the virgins, all together and accompanying each other on the procession, since a lady who walks alone on the streets is not well seen amongst Cusqueños . By the afternoon, the Main Square is full of the faithful, when the images begin to enter the Basilica to take part in a vigil with the doors closed, tomorrow they will come out for the great procession the Corpus Grande. This celebration has taken place every year since June 9th 1547 as Garcilaso Inca de La Vega testifies. When the Catholic Church arrived in this land it found not only a splendid culture with a high development level but also found a land fertile for evangelization. As the time passed, a mixture between local beliefs and Catholicism was born. Products of such mixture are the singular expressions of popular religiousness.