DOS MANOS PERU Travel and tours in Peru

Festivals and Events in Peru: Qoyllur Rit'i


Qoyllurriti Festivals Cusco Peru
Every year the multi-day festival Quyllur Rit'i ("Snow Star Festival") is celebrated on the north side of Ausangate, shortly before the Corpus Christi festival. Thousands of pilgrims come with their families to the snowy heights of the Church of Sinakara. They bring with them the image of the "Lord of Quyllur Rit'i", famous for its miracle working crucifix, and the Apu Ausangate (mountain god), among other mountain deities. The pilgrims perform sacrifices, dances and ceremonies in honor of the gods to secure the harvest and income for the coming year.

Part of the yearly tradition, originating either from Incan or pre-Incan roots, is the set-up of a market of miniature items that are used to ask the gods for special favor. A whole marketplace springs up that sells houses, cars, paper money and every imaginable thing in a mini dollhouse version. People purchase miniature figures of real wishes they hope the Señor de Qoyllur Rit'i will fulfill in the next year.

During the night of the festival, the bear dancers, ukukus, will climb to the top of the glacier and spend a frigid night dancing to stay warm. In the morning, when they descend from the glacier, they take bits of glacial ice with them to use in the traditional rituals. After this ritual, many pilgrims continue their pilgrimage to another site, Tayankani, incorporating dances in their trek across the highlands.

Today, many people fear that Qoyllur Rit'i has grown into a massive commercial event. Some worry that the commercialization and growing popularity of the event is ruining the spiritual essence of the festival. For example, famous rock bands have performed at Qoyllur Rit'i, and one year the Cusqueñan beer factory caused a scandal when they used Qoyllur Rit'i in an advertising scheme. Traditionally, alcohol is prohibited at the pilgrimage, and the blatant commercialization of the beer advertisement caused outrage for what is, for the most part, a sacred event.

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