Holy Week is upon us, and Peru's Andean city of Ayacucho is coming to life.
From Palm Sunday (April 17) onwards, the city’s population will swell as tens of thousands come to witness the continent’s most spectacular Easter celebrations, ending in the climactic pre-dawn procession on Easter Sunday itself.
Semana Santa in Ayacucho. (Photos by Matthew Finch)
Holy Week, or Semana Santa, starts this week. One of the most emblematic places to witness processions is in Peru's Andean highlands, in the city of Ayacucho. Matthew Finch tells us about a unique experience: Getting invited into the procession.
By Matthew Finch
Throughout the famous Easter celebrations in the city of Ayacucho, religious associations or ‘hermandades’ lead elaborate processions through the city streets, in which about thirty men carry a vast effigy, pallbearer-style, on telegraph poles.
Friday night saw the procession of Nuestro Señor de la Agonia — Christ suffering on the cross — and your correspondent for LivinginPeru.com was there to capture the moment.
Eating cuy, the succulent Andean guinea pig, at Las Flores restaurant in Ayacucho. (Photos: Luis Choy)
By Martin Huancas, El Comercio
Adapted from Spanish by Diana Schwalb
An unexpected purchase, a mysterious dream, but above all an immense faith and a good sazón were the first ingredients that Gloria Maria Zaga used 30 years ago to establish Las Flores, the best traditional restaurant of Ayacucho.
However, the road to get where she is now was not carpeted with rose petals. Men in ski masks and envious restaurant owners wanted to break this family business, but all they accomplished was to strengthen it, so much that the owner is now considering taking a leap and going to conquer the capital with her famous cuy, the guinea pigs and typical meat of Peru's Andean cuisine.
Ayacucho, located in the south-central Andes, is one of Peru’s most beautiful cities. This is due to its attractive colonial style churches and large majestic colonial houses. These elegant churches, adorned with golden altars and jewels, date back to the XVI-XVII and XVIII centuries.
This city is not only known for its exquisite architecture but also admired for its deep religious beliefs and celebration of these beliefs. The people’s expression of their profound faith can be seen in their 10 day celebration of Holy Week.
Holy Week is not only a time of sincere respect for the death and resurrection of Christ but also a time of enthusiasm and fervor. This can be appreciated in the religious ceremonies and processions as well as in the cultural, artistic and commercial events. Just after Sevilla, Spain, the city of Ayacucho is considered to have the most traditional celebration of Holy Week in the world.
This amazing ten day celebration begins with Passion Friday, otherwise known as “Viernes de Pasion.” On this day the procession of “Señor de la Agonia” (The Lord of Agony), which is a statue of Christ crucified, and the “Virgen Dolorosa” (The Pain filled Virgin) begins at the Temple of Magdalena, also known as “Uray Parroquia.”
After respects have been paid, the statues begin their course which takes them through the streets of the city accompanied by devoted followers singing in Spanish and Quechua.
Dancers from Ayacucho in ceremonial indigenous clothing.
(LIP-jl) -- From the cold Puna (barren land) Region to the warm Yunga (Densly wooded region), the department of Ayacucho is at the same time, a painful memory of our recent past. However, because of its people it is also a warm memory.
Thanks to its inhabitants, as well as its patrimony, customs and importance in the history of Peru, Ayacucho continues to heal its recent wounds, looking towards the future with hope. We will sketch a brief historical panorama on the basis of this broken geographical area, bordered by three rivers: Mantaro, Pampas and Apurímac and specifically on the City of Ayacucho (whose history encompasses important events of Peru´s past).
The Pre-hispanic formation
The presence of Ayacucho´s first inhabitants dates back more than 15 thousand years, when groups of hunter-gatherers subsisted with the fauna in a totally different environment to the present one. The landscape underwent drastic changes between the years 10,000 and 7,000 B.C. Conditions of life were modified in such a way that a large part of the fauna vanished for good and the climate became the one we know today.
In the Pampa Galeras-Bárbara D'Achille National Reserve (so called since 1993 in honor of the journalist killed by terrorists) in Lucanas, Ayacucho, Conacs protects some 15,000 vicuñas.
(LIP-wb) -- In the Pampa Galeras-Bárbara D'Achille National Reserve, in Lucanas, Ayacucho, above 4,200 meters in Peru’s Andean mountains, a tradition has lived on since Inca times: gathering precious vicuña wool without depleting the species.
Years of working at Pampa Galeras have given Jorge Herrera Hidalgo the extraordinary ability to count with a single glance large groups of objects and living beings.
Dressed in a goatskin vest and a white hat tipped over his forehead to protect his face from the powerful highland sun, the head of the Lima department of the National Council of South American Camelids (Conacs) gazes out over the vast plain from a bluff on Mount Illacata, where a flag of the Tahuantinsuyo Inca empire flaps in the highland wind that sweeps across the summit.
It is a sign that today is the chaccu: the age-old tradition of vicuña shearing.
(LIP-wb) The years of terror were incapable of crushing the fervor for Ayacucho folk art, which thrived despite events, the faithful descendants of the Wari tribe. But today the battle to keep their traditions alive rages on another front: the market and demand. The master craftsmen can survive on their talent and the beauty of their work, but the others will have to give into the market or be crushed.
The hands of these master artisans have overcome the ravages of time, vanquishing the years of political violence and the tears that marked their lives like a red-hot iron brand. The wounds left by more than a decade of terrorism have almost healed, and today the folk artists of Ayacucho ban boast of having survived two daunting threats: the tendency for their art to fall into oblivion in the middle of the last century, and a vicious insurgency that drove them from their communities and scared tourism away from their lands.
But today, these creators who have earned international acclaim face a fresh challenge: the hard times their art is up against due to the impositions of today's market. Not all, but a sizable number all the same have had to swap objects meant for contemplation for those of a more utilitarian nature, which enjoy more demand in a squeezed market.