Program according to the festivities: 5d 4n Rainbow Mountain & Pilgrimage for the Señor de Qoyllorrit´i. From the 15th to the 19th of June 2019

Qoyllorrit´i, which in Quechua means ‘star of snow,’ is the name of one of the most important Andean festivities celebrated by the Catholic Church, preceding Cusco’s Corpus Christi.

The pilgrimage and associated festival was named an intangible cultural heritage event by UNESCO in 2011, and the ritual is considered connected to the concept of fertility and the adoration of the Apus as mountains and tutelary gods.

The pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Senor de Qoylloriti happens every year in either May or June. The exact date is not always the same, as it depends on the Andean calendar.

Despite the external symbol of Christs’ image that this festivity directly celebrates, this ritual – carried out by the inhabitants of the Ocongate district (Quispicanchis), located in the department of Cusco – looks to connect and integrate man with nature. The people of this area are devotees of the Taytacha Qoyllur Rit'i (The man of Brilliant Snow). Every year, a few days before the Corpus Christ celebration, each small town or clan sends a delegation of colorful dancers and pabluchas to the chapel of the Señor de Qoyllorrit’I, in this ancient religious tradition practiced only by inhabitants of the Andes.

The ritual is associated with the earth’s fertility, and the adoration of the Apus (mountains and tutelary gods), and it is not only the biggest, but also one of the most important indigenous festivities in the Americas. The main ceremony takes place at the foot of the Ausangate Mountain, and consists of a large pilgrimage of shepherds, merchants, and devotees, as well as those who are driven by their curiosity, who come together at the Sinakara Sanctuary in the town of Mawayany, at 4,600 meters above sea level.


According to local beliefs, a young Jesus dressed as a shepherd appeared to a local indigenous boy named Marianito Mayta, and befriended him. When Marianito’s parents found the boys dressed in lavish attire, they alerted the local priest, Pedro de Landa, who tried to capture the mysterious boy without success, as a rock suddenly appeared in his place. Marianito died immediately, and the image of the Señor de Qoyllur Rit'i stayed fixed upon the rock.


The Sr. de Ccoylloritti festivity is one of syncretism between the catholic and Andean worlds. Hundreds of devoted pilgrims and entire populations from Peru’s southern Andean settlements gather together at the Sinacara site to honor the miraculous image of Christ, and these Andean populations – known as individual Nations – send their representative dance and music troupes.

Despite the historic imposition of the Catholic religion, the Andean people continue to hold their religious traditions close, keeping them alive camouflaged within different aspects of the celebration. For them, nature has its own spiritual representations: there is the Apu, the spirit of the mountain; the Pachamama, the earth; and the Inti, the sun as the divine maker.

The festivities begin on the day of the Holy Trinity, as over 10,000 pilgrims ascend the mountainside until arriving at the limit, where the perpetual snow falls, and where temperatures drop to -4 °C. Processions, fireworks, and the Alacitas symbolic market (which sells artisanally-made miniatures) accompany pilgrims as they make their way.

After approximately five hours of walking, the devotees arrive at the sanctuary of the Sr. de Ccoylloritti, where they must immediately greet the miraculous image of Christ. In the late afternoon, after most of the pilgrims have arrived, the almost 200 dance and music troupes make their official entrances, greeting the miraculous image one by one, according to the Nation they represent. This procession, which is accompanied by different dancers that symbolize a variety of mythical characters, takes spectators well through the night and into the early morning. The pablitos or ukukus are the intermediates between the Señor de Qoylloriti and man, responsible for maintaining order and delivering discipline during liturgical acts. These characters are dressed as bears (a black suit made from thick cloth and wool, and a woolen cap), and keep order and peace throughout the duration of the celebration, which is why they are also known as the soldiers of the señor.

The following day is the day of the serenade, during which the liturgical ceremonies to honor the miraculous Christ, also known as the peasant Christ, begin. The serenade starts in the afternoon with a dance spectacle that parades though the atrium and interior of the sanctuary. At midnight, a group of strong Queros – people from what might be the purest Quechua community in Peru – dressed as pabluchas make their way to the summit of the mountain (6,362 meters above sea level) in search of the Star of Snow, which is said to be locked in the heart of the mountain. It is here that they perform the baptisms of the new dancers, and where these guardians try those who have committed errors. Faults and/or errors are sent up with the pabluchas in secret envelopes that are opened and read upon arriving at the peak. As the strong ukukus return to their communities, they carry on their backs big blocks of ice that are then used to symbolically irrigate their lands with the sacred water of the Ausangate.

The main day begins with a sunrise ritual, after which the caravan – led by the cavalry – descends from the mountain towards the sanctuary. Hours later, the main mass takes place, followed by the procession of the Sr. de Ccoyllorritti, who is represented by the Sr. de Tayancani. The event concludes with a song (or Watascama) presented by each dance troupe as they bid farewell to the señor, and make their way back to the town of Mahuayani, before returning to their respective villages.

The festivities conclude with the Corpus Christi processions, held in the ancient Inca capital of Cusco, during which the streets and plazas fill with people, music, and colors. We invite you to discover these magical traditions and take part in this surreal festival held in the heights of the Andes!

Consult an executive about the program that we have prepared for you, which can be found attached to this note.



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