Travelling to Cusco, Peru is an adventure in itself, but if you are there during Semana Santa, Holy Week, you are in for a real treat. This week of celebration is a very significant time for the people of Cusco. The most important day of the week being Holy Monday that marks the remembrance of the city´s patron, Señor de los Temblores, Lord of the Earthquakes. It is this day that the powerful and revered shrine comes out of the Cathedral and bestows its blessing upon all of the people. His power was shown in 1650 whenever there was an earthquake. It is said that the people prayed to this shrine and as they did, the earthquake stopped. From that day on, this shrine of Christ has been called Lord of the Earthquakes and has been credited for saving the lives of many.
Incan and Catholic beliefs mix during this compelling event. Before the Spaniards came, the Incan people would worship the sun. Specifically during Inti Raymi, they would take out mummies from their temples and carry them on altars all throughout the city. Later on the King of Spain ordered for the mummies to be replaced with saints and virgins. Now one day out of the year, the Señor de los Temblores, as a shrine of Jesus hanging on a cross, is taken out of the temple and carried all throughout the city of Cusco. People from all over the city, along with foreigners, come to receive the blessings that the shrine gives and to see this great spectacle. The people believe that worshipping the Señor de los Temblores will keep them safe from all harmful earthquakes.
Thursday is also an important day for Cusco. Many devout Catholics fast up until this day in order to partake in the sufferings and humility of Christ. However, on Thursday they break this fast in order to remember the Last Supper that Jesus had with his disciples. They eat twelve dishes, symbolic for the twelve disciples. The dishes vary from each household, but none of them contain meat or rising agents, in accordance with Catholic custom. The plates are served in small portion sizes and include foods such as, wheat, corn, fish, soups, and many desserts.
Friday is a quieter day as it is the death of Christ. Many people from the countryside come from far away to the center to bring their herbs and medicinal plants that are said to receive blessings as they make their journey to remember the Lord. Several people buy these plants and herbs believing that they are blessed.
Travelling to Cusco, Peru allows travelers to experience this traditional remembrance of Christ in a new way. Holy Week is unique in Cusco because of its mixed Incan and Catholic traditions and customs. The mark of the Incas and the Spaniards is still prevalent in all of the exciting festivities that take place during this week.