Pilgrimage to Qoyllur Riti

Pilgrimage to Qoyllur Riti

May-June
Although Corpus Christi processions are common, the pilgrimage to Qoyllur Riti in Peru is unique. The journey involves a dangerous climb up a glacier near Cuzco to honor an apparition of Jesus that was witnessed there in 1780, although it is believed that a related custom took place there before the arrival of Christianity. It is sometimes called the Star Snow Festival ( Qoyllur means "star") because it takes place at a time when the constellation known as the Pleiades first becomes visible in the night sky.
The pilgrimage is one of the biggest celebrations of the year, and the festivities go on for nearly two-and-a-half weeks. On Wednesday morning, ringing church bells rouse townspeople by 4 a.m. They rise and begin to sweep streets, construct fruit stands, and make ready temporary altars in anticipation of the procession. In the outlying parishes, images of the saints are prepared for their entrance into Cuzco. While men bear the images in turns, women tote beverages and food in their wraps. All of these smaller processions arrive around 11 o'clock at Cuzco at the church of Santa Clara, where they do honor to the Virgin of Bethlehem, who is the guardian of Cuzco.
The big procession forms the next day, with everyone wearing the native dress of his or her region. Those who make it to the top of the glacier, which is 16,000 feet above sea level, erect a cross, recite prayers, and light candles. The mountain is said to be a home for the spirits of those who have committed mortal sins. But the climb is also believed to strengthen the pilgrims, many of whom are young men, making them more able to avoid falling under the influence of harmful powers. On the journey down the mountain, the pilgrims often carry blocks of ice, which some regard as possessing the power to heal the sick. Many others water their fields with the melted ice in the belief that it is holy water.
CONTACTS:
Commission for the Promotion of Peru
Calle Uno Oeste No. 50, piso 13th
Urb. Corpac
Lima, 27 Peru
51-1-4224-3131; fax: 51-1-224-7134
www.promperu.gob.pe
SOURCES:
CelebCustRitWrld-1996, p. 161
FestWrld: Peru-1998, p. 16
FiestaTime-1965, p. 107