Semana Santa In Peru

November 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Semana Santa Around the World

“Perhaps the most famous Semana Santa celebrations occur in Ayacucho, Peru, where the entire town participates in the Holy Week event. Semana Santa celebrations are concentrated in the Andean highland villages, where the mix of Catholicism and pagan religions creates some of the most colorful and fervent festivals. Ayacucho, Cuzco, Huaraz and Tarma each have week-long observances, but Ayacucho is most famous for its Holy Week celebrations.”

 Tarma is often called the Pearl of the Andes for its scenic beauty. “The streets where the processions march are covered in carpets and arches of flowers, created by the devout citizens of the town. Celebrations begin on Thursday with the procession of the Virgen de Dolores, continue with the daily observances, and end with the traditional Easter Sunday processions. A tradition for the artisans creating the floral works is to end the day with a calientito, hot tea with lemon and chacta (cane liquor) to keep the creative spirit warm.”

 In Huaraz, at the base of Huascaran, year-long preparations culminate in a carefully choreographed week of celebrations. Beginning with Palm Sunday, an effigy of Christ is carried on a donkey into the city. Celebrations end on Domingo de Resurrección with fireworks and the release of hundreds of birds. Huaraz observes Semana Santa rituals with piety and devotion.

 “In Cuzco, capital of the Inca Empire, Semana Santa observations revolve around the Señor de los Temblores. Legend has it that the statue of Christ, sent by Philip V of Spain to aid in the conversion of the Indians, became emaciated and blackened following an earthquake on May 31, 1650. The statue, now resembling the native population, has been revered since as the Cristo de los Temblores (Christ of the Earthquakes.) The processions through the streets are colored by strips of textiles woven with gold thread that hang in the windows of houses, and enlivened by firecrackers and noise makers.”

 “A different slant to the religious rituals occurs on Good Friday when abstinence is not practiced. Instead, participants feast on twelve traditional dishes, from soups, fish, potato dishes to desserts.”

 “In Ayacucho, the most famous and well-attended Semana Santa celebrations involve the entire town. The ceremonies begin on the Friday before Palm Sunday, with the enactment of the meeting between Christ and his mother, the Virgen Dolorosa. Palm Sunday is a festive occasion, with mules and palms waving throughout the city. During the week, daily, and evening processions allow the participants to demonstrate their devotion.”

 “An open air market with crafts, food, and music draws a huge crowd who enjoy chicha or chacta with a chew of coca leaves. A traditional belief holds that since Christ is now dead, and not yet risen, there is no such thing as a sin. Consequently, participants in Ayacucho’s holy week celebrations use this time to party and behave as they please until Sunday’s resurrection ceremonies.”


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