Cusco Travel Blog› entry 7 of 12 › view all entries
August 16th, 2009 – by: Linqueen
Since we couldn't leave the hostel until our laundry was completed, I decided to sit up on the terrace to read and watch the festive parade passing through the Plaza de Armas. Loud music was amplified across the plaza, explosive sounds rang throughout the air occasionally, and large crowds watched the events unfold. We later learned that the parade was in celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, and I found it pretty unusual and inspirational that the whole town would seemingly come together to celebrate a religious holiday.
Once our load of laundry was complete, we returned to the San Blas barrio of Cusco to eat lunch at Jack's Cafe Bar, one of the most popular hangouts for foreigners, or gringos as we are called in Peru.It was the first place where we were required to wait in a line to get a table.
Next we ventured back to the Plaza de Armas, where we took a tour of La Catedral, Cusco's cathedral that was completed in 1669 in the Renaissance style. The interior was very ornate and gorgeous, and we were disappointed to learn that we could not take pictures inside the cathedral built on the site of a former Inca palace. The cathedral is full of some 400 canvases that served as educational pieces of art, teaching recent religious converts about the Catholic faith, which was new to the area when the Spaniards arrived. It was interesting to see how the artists blended the Catholic doctrine with local customs and influences so that the people could better relate to the Biblical stories.For example, in the Peruvian painting of the Last Supper, the apostles are drinking chicha (the fermented maize beer common in the Quechua culture) and eating cuy (guinea pigs). In addition, Judas is portrayed as a darker-skinned person than his fellow apostles, resembling a Moor. In other paintings, instead of seeing people traveling with camels or donkeys, they are depicted as traveling with llamas, an important animal to Peruvians.
Also in La Catedral was an altar adorned to the Lord of the Earthquakes, or the locally famous "El Negrito." El Negrito is a brown-skinned figure of Christ on the cross, and it is known as the protector of Cusco. Apparently, this figure was paraded around the city by frightened residents during a devastating earthquake in 1650.Shortly after the figure was brought into the streets, the earthquake ceased. The Peruvians have so much faith in El Negrito that fresh flowers are delivered in its honor on a daily basis, and it is paraded around the streets for religious holidays. The reason the figure of Christ has brown skin is simply due to the fact that is has darkened due to the repeated lighting of candles beneath it.
Inside the cathedral, we also learned about the importance of Saint Anthony to the local single women. Most Catholics know that you can pray to St. Anthony when you have lost something. However, the women of Cusco also pray to Saint Anthony to help them find a husband. In fact, it is common for single women to have small statuettes of the saint in their home.Every Friday, they turn the statue upside down and then rightside up again to remind Saint Anthony of their desire for a husband.
We then found a bench in the central square of the Plaza de Armas, where we opened up our books to read. However, it was not a very peaceful setting because we could not sit for more than two minutes before we were approached by a vendor attempting to sell us paintings, cigars, jewelry, finger puppets, or some other useless trinket.
We didn't accomplish much during the remainder of the day since we were still a bit tired from our Inca Trail adventure. We visited an Internet cafe, ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and packed our bags for tomorrow's flight to Arrequipa.
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