CUSCO – CULTURE AND CUSTOMS

Cusco is a land full of customs and cultural manifestations of various kinds. For example, their dances, their festivities, crafts, religious festivals, gastronomy or the Quechua language itself, inherited from their Inca ancestors. Every corner of its territory has something to show the visitor. That is why, in addition to Machu Picchu, Cusco is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Peru. There is so much to know!

Cusco customs
Culture and customs of Cusco


Folklore in Cusco

Cusco has dances, music, festivities, crafts and all kinds of folklore from the Inca, colonial tradition and more. For example, the famous ‘Fiesta del Inti Raymi’ is a tradition dating back to Inca times. The religious festival of ‘Corpus Christi’ comes from the Christian colonial tradition. Likewise, many of the Cusco dances have their origin in the Republican era.

Inca Cusco

Colonial Cusco

Modern Cusco


Dances in Cusco

Cusco is the department of Peru with the most dances. Most traditional festivities include dance choreographies that are liked by the population. Most of the dances have been practiced since the Republican era and represent scenes from the colonial era and even the Inca era. The clothes are representative of each region of Cusco. In addition, music with traditional instruments is used. Most of the dances are performed in honor of the virgins and saints of each town. The dance and choreography can last several hours and even days.

Danzas del Cusco
Dances of Cusco

Cusco Carnival

The goldfinches

Turkuy

Ampay Carnival

Ccatcca Carnival

Solischallay

Q’ara Takay

Saras Pillu

Qasqa Kio

Sullumayo Carnival


Quechua, the language of the Incas

Quechua is the most widely spoken native language in South America. It is currently spoken in up to 7 countries: Peru, Ecuador and part of Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and Colombia. Its origin dates back to the Caral valley in the 3,000 years before the Christian era. The language is expanded throughout the Andes Mountains until it was recognized as the official language of the Inca Empire in the 15th century of the Christian era. The Spanish tried in vain to ban the Quechua language after the conquest. Today in Cusco, most people speak Quechua over Spanish. It is estimated that about ten million people speak Quechua. In Peru, this average has increased in recent years.

Quechua the language of the Incas
Quechua the language of the Incas

The origins of Quechua

Quechua during the Incas

Quechua during colonial times

Quechua in literature

Quechua today


Crafts in Cusco

Cusco is a land of artisans. For a long time, the people of Cusco produced important manifestations in textiles, painting, pottery, jewelry, wood carving, imagery, and much more. The neighborhood of San Blas, in the Historic Center of Cusco, was home to several of the best Cusco artisans such as: Manuel Olave, Hilario Mendívil, Domingo Álvarez and many others. Today, it is possible to buy good crafts in the famous markets of San Pedro, Pisac as well as in the same neighborhood of San Blas.

Textileria en cusco
Textile in Cusco

Textile in Cusco

Pottery in Cusco

Jewelry in Cusco

Wood carving in Cusco

Imaginary in Cusco


Festivities in Cusco

Each year Cusco celebrates a variety of religious and Andean festivities. The Inti Raymi festival (Sun Festival) is an Inca tradition implanted by the Inca Pachacutec in approximately 1430 and that continues to be celebrated today by the people of Cusco. There are also other festivals of colonial origin, such as: El Señor de los Temblores, Holy Week, Corpus Christi, El Señor de Qoyllurriti and more.

Pachamama Day
Pachamama Day

Know the calendar of the main festivities of Cusco:

Change of rods in Chinchero

Carnivals of Cusco

Lord of Tremors

Holy Week in Cusco

Lord of Qoyllurriti

Corpus Christi

Inti Raymi

Pachamama Day

Feast of All Saints

Santuranticuy

New Year in Cusco


The Inti Raymi festival

The Inti Raymi Festival is one of the most famous Cusco celebrations in the world. It commemorates the ‘Wawa Inti Raymi’, the festival in honor of the sun established by the Inca Pachacutec in the 1430s. During the Spanish colony this religious festival was prohibited and fought against. In 1944, the people of Cusco organized a festival to commemorate their Inca ancestors and the Inti Raymi was created, a giant staging that evokes the Inca tradition.

Intiraymi party in Cusco
Intiraymi festival in Cusco

The Inti Raymi in the Inca Empire

The prohibition of Inti Raymi

The Inti Raymi today


The carnivals of Cusco

Carnivals in Cusco are a series of celebrations full of joy, music and dance. The festival begins with the celebrations of the day of ‘the comadres’ and the day of ‘the compadres’ where it is tradition to taste the ‘timpu’ or puchero (broth full of meats and vegetables). It is also common to create burlesque rag dolls among friends or family. The central day is movable since it can be celebrated on a Sunday in February or March. Young people often play with water between men and women.

Carnivals of Cusco
Carnivals of Cusco

Feast of the ‘compadres’ and ‘comadres’

The carnivals of Cusco

The ‘kacharpari’ or carnival auction


Corpus Christi in Cusco

‘Corpus Christi’ is the most important religious festival in Cusco. It is a massive event where the 15 most important saints and virgins of the city are carried in procession. These images are transferred to the Cathedral where they rest for 7 days until the ‘eighth’, where they are transferred back to their respective churches. Throughout the event, it is a tradition to taste the delicious ‘Chiriuchu’, a typical Cuy-based dish from Cusco.

Corpus Christi in Cusco
Corpus Christi in Cusco

Origins of Corpus Christi

The central day of Corpus Christi

The 15 saints and virgins of Cusco

These are the 15 saints and virgins that are carried in procession during the Corpus Christi festivities of Cusco:

The eighth or farewell to Corpus Christi


Qoyllur Rit’i, pilgrimage of the Andes

The Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i is a Christian religious festival but it has a very ancient Andean background: the relationship between man and nature. It takes place in the town of Mawayani, at the foot of the snow-capped Ausangate. Despite the extreme weather and the altitude at almost 5 thousand meters high (16,404 ft); the pilgrimage in honor of the image of Mr. Qoyllur Rit’i brings together more than 10,000 people from all over Cusco and beyond. The festival is characterized by dances, music and satirical representations of colonial origin. This festival is recognized by UNESCO as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.

Qoyllur Riti Cusco
Qoyllur Rit’i – Cusco

The origins of the lord of Qoyllur Rit’i

“In 1780 a mestizo boy (Manuel) ran into another indigenous boy (Mariano Mayta) on the heights of the snowy Colquepunku. The two children became very close friends. Suddenly little Mariano’s cattle began to increase. As thanks for the miracle, Mariano’s father decided to buy clothes for Manuel. However, when he appreciated the fabric of his clothing, he realized that it was characteristic of a bishop. The village priest decided to find the boy Manuel. When he managed to find it, it was transformed into an image on a stone. The other boy, Mariano, died immediately. His body was buried under the stone where the image of the child Manuel was found. The natives began to venerate this stone on which the Christian authorities painted a crucified Christ. Today, that image is known as the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i (Quechua word that means “Snow of stars”) ”.

The pilgrimage at the foot of Mount Ausangate

The party at the Sinkara Shrine

Meaning of the pilgrimage of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i


Gastronomy in Cusco

Cusco, like most of the Andean regions of Peru, offers delicious typical dishes made with potatoes, corn, beans, chuño, quinoa and more. These dishes are consumed in any part of the year, although it is also customary to do so on special festivities such as: timpu in carnivals, chiriuchu in Corpus Christi, etc. There are many restaurants where you can taste traditional Cusco dishes. One of the most popular is the San Pedro market in the Historic Center.

Chiriuchu
Chiriuchu – Cusco

Chiriuchu

These are the ingredients of Chiriuchu:

Baked suckling pig

These are the ingredients of the baked suckling pig:

Timpu

These are the ingredients of Timpu:

Broad bean kapchi

These are the ingredients of the bean Kapchi:

Baked guinea pig

These are the ingredients of the Baked Guinea Pig:

Chuño cola

These are the ingredients of Chuño cola:

 

By Machupicchu Terra – Last updated, July 19, 2021


More guides that can help you

The 10 best tours in Cusco

Cusco was the capital of the Inca empire. From there all the roads that covered immense regions in the current countries of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina started. Today, numerous tours depart from there to such incredible tourist attractions as Machu Picchu. What are the most famous tours among visitors? Get to know a list of the 10 most requested destinations by tourists arriving in Cusco, Peru.

The 10 best tours in Cusco

Cusco Tourist Ticket: visit everything!

The Cusco Tourist Ticket is a ticket that allows you to visit up to 16 tourist attractions in Cusco, among which are: Sacsayhuaman, Pisac, Ollantaytambo, Chinchero, Moray and more. This ticket is the cheapest way to get to know the main destinations in Cusco. Your purchase is included in most tours.

Cusco Tourist Ticket: visit everything!