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    Land of winds > Traditions > Festival | Issue 13 (Jan.-Feb. 2013)
    By Edgardo Civallero | Sara Plaza

The Feast of the Cross

The Feast of the Cross

The Feast of the Crosses, Feast of the Cross, Feast of the Holy Cross or May Cross, is celebrated on May 3 in many parts of Spain and the Spanish-speaking Latin America. Despite the Roman Catholic Church removed this date from Roman calendar (after Pope John XXIII combined the Feast of the Cross with the Triumph of the Cross into September 14), this popular celebration continues today. According to tradition, the feast of the Holy Cross commemorates the finding by Saint Helena (Roman Emperor Constantine's mother) of the True Cross on which Christ would have been crucified.

In the Andean region, the festival spreads across several countries, from central Chile to Ecuador (Cuenca, Quito, Otavalo, Caranqui, Chunchi), to Bolivia and Peru (Huaraz, Piscobamba, Recuay, Corongo, Cuzco, San Rafael, Huánuco, Tacna).

In pre-Hispanic times, the constellation known as Crux, Southern Cross, pusi wara (in Aymara, "four stars") or chakana (in Quechua, "staircase") was imbued with mystical and religious meanings, besides serving as a reference and guidance, much the same as the Pole Star in the northern hemisphere, proverbially the marine's friend. Spanish conquest, missionaries, and idolatry extirpation campaigns took advantage of the constellation popularity (which reached beyond astronomy to include architecture and art), which was banished only by way of being replaced with the Christian Cross. Likewise, crosses were placed in ancient wakas (sacred sites) and on the top of the apus and achachilas (mountains surrounding the communities, considered sacred places where protective spirits and ancestors dwell). Those are the crosses that are honoured at the Feast of the Holy Cross. The customs associated with this celebration vary from place to place along the Andes. There are, however, some common features including processions, evening events, prayers, offerings, exhibitions, regional dishes, music and dancing.

In some places this celebration has been associated with fertility. In Cochabamba (Bolivia), the Festival of the Santa Vera Cruz honouring the "Tatala" Jesus Christ is also known as the "Fiesta de la Fertilidad" (Fertility Festival); devotees make offerings to the cross and ask to be blessed with children, large herds and flocks, and a good harvest. In Puno (Peru), the festival combines with the Alasitas Fair (street market where miniatures that are going to be offered to the Ekeko, ancient god of fortune and prosperity, and Ekekos themselves are sold). In Macha (Bolivia), the "Cruzfiesta" includes a tinku, ritual battles linked to fertility.

In the Meseta del Collao (highlands surrounding Lake Titicaca), the Feast of the Cross includes parades featuring colourful morenadas, caporales and llameradas groups (large bands and dancers), as well as sikuris bands with the best of their musical repertoire.

Today, in different parts of the Andes, this celebration has been renamed as "Fiesta de la Chakana" (Festival of the Chakana) as a means of preserving cultural identity.

Fiesta de las Cruces (May Cross), in Wikipedia.
Roodmass, in Wikipedia.
Article. "La Festividad de la Chakana Cruz", in Revista Identidades [es].
Article. "Mayo, fiesta de las cruces en los cerros más elevados", in Puno Mágico [es].

Video 01. Qhantati Ururi at the Feast of the Cross in Huancané (Peru).
Video 02. Feast of the Cross in Huancané (Peru).
Video 03. Morenada 3 de Mayo at the Feast of the Cross in Copacabana (Bolivia).
Video 04. Llamerada 3 de Mayo at the Feast of the Cross in Copacabana (Bolivia).
Video 05. Sikuris Aymaras from Huancané at the Feast of the Cross 2010 (low quality).
Video 06. Sikuris Rosales from Rosaspata at the Feast of the Cross 2010 (low quality).

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