Festivals in Aguas Calientes / Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu might be deserted, but that doesn’t mean all tradition is lost. In fact, the town of Aguas Calientes is quite thriving, with many young people. Each year in early May you get the chance to attend a very special, the Fiesta de las Cruces.
The festival dates back to the 18th century when Christian priests tried to convert the natives by putting up crosses in the ancient Inka Sanctuaries. Most famous of them is the Cruz Velacuy in Cusco, though other towns will have their own celebration. Aguas Calientes is one of them and if you get the chance, you should plan your trip to Machu Picchu for May 3rd to attend this unique festival.
Originally the festival was related to the vigil of the Cross during the reign of the Roman emperor Constantine. The Peruvians, however, adapted the Christian festival to their own needs and traditions. Usually, the fiesta starts with a huge lunch, then a procession will lead the believers to church, where a mass takes places. Here the priest will bless the richly decorated the people brought from their homes with holy water. After that, they are then carried in huge processions through the town. Dancers of all ages accompany the processions, as do marching bands and even fireworks. The party usually continues all night, with dancing and drinking.
At the end of May (usually a Saturday) there is another Festival held in Aguas Calientes. The Señor de Torrechayoc. More than 350 years ago a huge landslide blocked the way from Urubamba to the other valley towns of Lares and Yucay. Residents had to search for another route. Shortly after a cross has been found half buried in the snow. Locals taking this road reported having dreamt of the savior and the cross. This is when the Lord of Torrechayoc was declared the patron saint of Urubamba.
Today the festival consists of a mass and a presentation of a sheer abundance of folkloric dances and music. From Aguas Calientes, you should definitely consider heading to Urubamba, where on Sunday the main procession will take place. The ancient cross, adorned with jewels, will be carried around town, accompanied by dancers and bands. Rodeos, cockfights and bullfights (bulls not being killed!!) will be held in the following days. Definitely, a sight you want to see.