QOYLLUR RIT’I FESTIVAL
(THE BIGGEST RELIGIOUS FESTIVAL IN THE ANDES)
Qoyllur Rit’i is the snow and star festival of Peru. It is the most important pilgrimage in the entire Andes. Peru is a Catholic country. Still, it is very much a syncretic one, meaning that Andean cosmology and spiritual tradition live alongside Catholic belief.
Every year, around May or June, about 100,000 people walk 8 kilometers up high in the mountains to pray the “ Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i ”, at 4,700 meters above the sea level in the region of Cusco. Thousands of dancers and musicians perform and celebrate religious beliefs during more than a week. They come mostly for celebrating the stars, the mountains (Apus), honoring Jesus Christ and the local glacier, which is held to be sacred.
“The story goes that in the year 1780, a white boy with blond hair and blue eyes appeared to a young local Quechua shepherd at the foot of the most impressive and venered mountain in the region of Cusco : the Ausangate. They quickly became good friends. When the shepherd went down to the village, he took a sample of clothes of his new friends to buy him new ones. Nobody had ever seen such material before, so the archbishop of Cusco sent a team to invistigate who this Mestizo was and where he came from. When they arrived, they couldn’t find him and the shepherd boy died of sadness. At the place where this occured, an image of the crucified Christ appeared in the rock. Since then, a Church has been built over it, and became the focal point of the Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage.“