Semana Santa in Cusco

It’s not every day you see a giant statue of Jesus, known as the Taytacha in Quechua, toted down the cobblestone streets of Cusco. However, this annual sight is a staple of Semana Santa. Holy Week is just one of many cultural events celebrated throughout Peru.

Globalteer volunteers and interns can experience festivals and cultural opportunities year-round!

In fact, sometimes, volunteers and interns even have the opportunity to host fun events for the children at Picaflor House, which makes any celebration more meaningful. 

So, here's a blog on how I participated in Semana Santa this year as an intern.

Festival of the Lord of Earthquakes:

For me, the week began with Senor de los Temblores. I found myself on the front steps of the Cusco Cathedral in Plaza De Armas. As rain splattered down onto my umbrella, I heard the church bells chime as the Cathedral's front doors sprang open to reveal an enormous statue of Jesus Christ. Traditional music and chanting ensued, beginning Semana Santa's biggest procession and one of Cusco's longest-standing traditions.

Incredibly, this venerated spectacle dates back nearly 400 years. Since 1650, Lord of the Earthquakes has been paraded around town every Holy Monday. The yearly festival is devoted to the Patron Saint of Cusco, as Taytacha is believed to have limited damage from the catastrophic 1650 earthquake. It's a substantial religious parade that thousands of locals and tourists join. 

As the parade went through town, audience members threw red flower petals to symbolize Christ's sacrifice. Participants held woven crosses, photos of Taytacha, and other testaments of their faith, following the patron saint to different churches around Cusco.

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Maundy Thursday, Holy Friday & Easter Sunday:

Additionally, believe it or not, I quickly discovered Semana Santa is the best week for foodies visiting Cusco.

You might be asking, "What does a Holy Week have to do with food?"

Well, “twelve dishes” are prepared as symbolism for the Last Supper and twelve disciples. With this intention, the streets fill with vendors selling traditional dishes. These scrumptious delicacies include empanadas, peach stew, choro (mussel) soup, corn cakes, cuy (guinea pig), and fried trout. Don't forget to try a medley of sweet treats like suspiros (picture a meringue)!

On Thursday, Saints are taken from local churches and paraded around town. Before noon on Good Friday, hundreds of farmers from surrounding villages flock to Plaza San Pedro and Plaza Tupac Amaru to sell herbs. These roots and herbs are believed to hold healing powers.

After a 7 am mass on Easter Sunday, Cusco continues to celebrate with fireworks and more tasty dishes!

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Easter Celebrations at Picaflor House:

Easter Sunday did not mark the end of festivities for Globalteer interns. On Monday, the children at Picaflor House took a break from mathematical equations and handwriting skills to celebrate Semana Santa in fashion (how could bunny ears not be stylish?).

As an intern, I had the pleasure of hiding candy for an Easter egg hunt and preparing decorations for the festivities. The students had a blast finding treats hidden in bookshelves, bushes, and the playground. Once most of the candy had been discovered, the games began.

The kids enjoyed playing an assortment of games that teachers created. Seeing the students of Picaflor House celebrate Semana Santa brought new meaning to the holiday and enriched my experience as an intern.

Even though Semana Santa is now over, I'm excited to embrace more of the festival held in Peru annually. Cusco celebrates hundreds of festivals and rituals year-round, most notably Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) and Qoyllur Rit'i (Snow Star Festival).

Are you interested in living in a vibrant city and attending more intriguing cultural events? If so, check out Globalteer's volunteer or internship opportunities in Peru.

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Kids Playing Game"