Culture and Tradition in the Festivity of Cruz Velacuy in Cusco
- Published on May 03, 2017 Culture
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Cruz Velacuy or Festivity of the Cross is an Andean religious celebration that takes place every year in various provinces, districts, and neighborhoods in Cusco. Its main purpose is to worship the crosses, sacred symbols located at different churches and places of worship.
The so-called “Velación de la Cruz” (Vigil of the Cross) begins on May 2nd (on the eve of the main day) by carrying crosses from peaks, hills, and shrines. On May 3rd, the main day, thousands of parishioners who visit the city, worship the cross and pray in the vigils during the whole day. The festivity is also enlivened with typical music such as sacra or huaynos. Bands of musicians are hired and it finishes with impressive fireworks.
Origin of Cruz Velacuy
The origin of this important tradition in Cusco goes back to the first decades of the XVIII century when it was celebrated in private and only with family. After the Spanish conquest, the crosses were considered as elements of struggle and intense ideological conflict, being one of the first Catholic elements ever used in the Tahuantinsuyo.
Since then, the festivity of Cruz Velacuy has been evolving over the years. A breakpoint was the earthquake that struck Cusco in 1950. After such event, the devotion for this celebration increased, adding a greater amount of crosses in various places of worship and sanctuaries.
For this religious festivity, neighbors of each community or neighborhood organize themselves six months in advance to choose a “carguyoc” or butler, who will be in charge of organizing and bearing the highest expenses of the next Cruz Velacuy. Generally, the carguyoc is a person with sufficient economic resources to make such investment and must be also the owner of a house where an altar for a cross will be erected.
As a tradition, the butler hires a band of musicians and offers special bread during the j’urkar, an event where families, friends, and other wealthy people are asked for donations. Upon accepting the donation, they drink beer and dance inside their houses. In this way, everything is set for the main day, where the devotees carry crosses in a procession to the temples, and the central mass and beginning of activities are held.
On the main day (May 3rd) the central mass is held, where the devotees carry the cross in a procession accompanied by local bands. After the mass finishes, the cross returns to the butler’s house and it is placed on an altar built especially for veneration.
At midday, the butler offers a lunch, and, in the afternoon, he offers a party with lots of drink and music. The next day (May 4th) is the “kacharpari” or “farewell party”, where the cross is moved to its place of origin, saying goodbye to this festivity until next year.