A day of diversity
Besides its beauty, the city of Cusco is reputed to have a rich religious and liturgics traditions. But there are cults and there are cults in Cusco. So much influence, superimposition of ideologies, and baroque confusion have created a very complex universe of beliefs, superstitions, idolatries and true centers of faith and spirituality; some of them can be visited. You have read about “Wiracocha’s egg” in the Cathedral, a sample of exquisite chaos and diversity of worshipping.
One of the most intriguing devotions is to Niño Compadrito. A sinister and enigmatic image, Niño Compadrito is a figure centimeters high, which is said to be an authentic skeleton of a human fetus, despite there are people that sustain is it the skeleton of an Amazon monkey. Only the skull can be seen since the rest of the body (of whatever it is) is covered by finely embroidered cloaks offered by the devotees, following an Andean tradition of pagos (paying tribute) that was mixed with the tradition brought from Seville of making rich shrines for religious images. The skull features sky-blue glass-made eyes with enormous fake eyelashes (a donation of a lady who was favored with a miracle), a wig made with curly human hair and a silver crown.
The origin of the legend is a bit confusing (there are many versions: from being the son of a Spanish viceroy and an Inca princess, to an ordinary child that died at, or the fetus of a noun that was renowed for being pious). In any case, it seems that the secrets of the story were passed on by Doña Belén, other of the current owner of the relic, Juan Letona, who was quite reluctant to speak about the subject saying: “A family gave me the child as a gift, that’s why I don’t know anything about its origin.” Juan Letona says the same thing when he is asked.
About the term “Compadrito,” it would have originated as an affectionate way to give empathy to an image that truly transmits a double power of good and evil. On Tuesdays and Fridays, hundreds of people make all kinds of offers (candy, flowers, money, embroidered cloaks, children’s toys), especially candles. White candles are for goods wishes, and back ones for something evil (of which nobody talks about.) The relationship between this pagan cult and the Catholic Church has always been tortuous. In 1975, the bishop of Cusco, Monsignor Luis Vallejos, prohibited its cult arguing it promoted obscurantism. Years later, in 1983, Vallejos died in a car accident, which was interpreted by the devotees as Niño Compadrito’s act of revenge, increasing its popularity. The current sanctuary is a chapel located in Tambo de Montero Street 124.
The Lord of the Earthquakes (or Taytacha Timpluris in Quehua) is the city’s patron. The image of this Christ is located in the Triumph Chapel, at the side of the Cathedral. It was a gift of King Charles V of Spain, who commissioned it to consolidate the conquest of the Inca Empire in the area. People say that its typical dark copper color-note in vain he is called the Indigenous Christ- is the result of being exposed to the candle and incense smoke. The image is not made out of wood or camelid skin as it was thought but, instead, from flax vegetal fiver, meanwhile the head was made from agave (also known as maguey) and the feet and hands of balsa wood.
When years ago the image was restored, technicians found inside the body a good amount of letters written by devotees with desperate requests. The letter were thrown in by the injury at the said of the “Taitacha.” This is a deep and dark working of miracles done by the Patron Christ. Either way, the materials used to make the image show it was locally built and not imported from Spain. The adoration of the Lord of the Earthquakes can be traced back to the Colonial period, more precisely to 1650 when the earthquake destroyed the city. The population, without distinction or social class or ethnic origin, congregated around the image. The earthquake intensity, history reckons, diminished so significantly that the people concluded it was a miracle of the Christ.
During Hole Week, the Lord of the Earthquakes is taken out in progression, where he is paid homage by fervent and devoted people. House balconies are decorated with fine clothes and blankets from where red petals from a wild plant known as ñucchu are thrown. This seems to be a tradition adopted from the Inca period, when they took out in procession the mummies (mallquis) of their dead rulers, and they were honored with the same kind of flowers. The celebration of the Lord of the Earthquakes in Cusco is a Peruvian Cultural Heritage.
Another cultural heritage in the city in the city is the cementery of La Almudena, located in the upper side of the Santiago neighborhood. Built in 1845, the cementery is worth visiting to admire its beautiful architecture, and the rock and marble mausoleums belonging to old families of Cusco and historic figures such as the artist Mariano Fuentes Lira, Humberto Vidal Unda-who promoted Inty Raymi- and the writer Clorinda Matto de Turner. There might be night circuits in the near future. It is better to go in the morning, when the sunlight shines the golden frames of the niches and it produces a magic effect. During the Day of the Dead, on November 1, paradoxically, this cementery comes back to life as never before.
The San Blas neighborhood is probably the most attractive district in the city. Known as the “artisan neighborhood,” it has more Republican architecture than Colonial area, but with an eclectic air that makes the place unmistakably7 charming. San Blas has countless alleys and narrow streets, full of curiosities such as Siete Angelitos Street (“Seven Little Angels”) or Siete Diablitos Street (“Seven Little Devils.”) The white colored adobe from old and humble houses contrasts with the blue that covers doors, windows, balconies, and balusters. The church is the oldest in the city (1544). Its modest architecture hides one of the biggest and most important jewels of the colonial period: An impressive pulpit carved in one piece of cedar, which has a fascinating history of course: Find out. Its over-elaborate style presents some characters who were dissidents of Catholic dogma, such as Martin Luther or King Henry VIII, beside the four Evangelists.
It is unknown who made the pulpit, but some version sustain that it was the indigenous sculptor, Juan Tomas Tuyru Tupac. The splendid neighborhood also has some interesting houses, like the one where the Architects Association (Colegio de Arquitectos) is located. Other houses highlight their peculiar style between Andean and Andalusian in their interior orchards. The cosmopolitan air Cusco has turned San Blas in a favorite among travelers in opposition to tourist. By this I mean the pariah, trans-humans that, even when traveling with credit cards, are closer to Paul Bowles’ characters than to the tasteless gringos that travel like sheep in tour agency groups. There are small shops, workshops, esoteric centers, bars, and coffee shops in this post hippie vibe that has harmonized nicely with the traditional space.