While traveling other countries, every blue moon or so you happen into something wonderful that you weren’t expecting. After two days at Machu Picchu, we came back to Cusco, Peru and found ourselves in the middle of a Catholic procession honoring the beginning of Holy Week. I must say, these Catholics really enjoy a procession.
It began at 2p.m., with a marching band and the main image of Jesus, black and wearing a skirt, was take from the Basilica and paraded about the streets with hundreds of marchers and several hundred military soldiers to keep the crowds back. It took about an hour just to get Jesus out of the church and halfway around the main square.
In addition to the procession, I saw a number of people selling whips for the masses to perform self-flagellation. I confess, I didn’t see anyone whipping themselves.
The procession continued to wind through the streets with people throwing handfuls of red flowers over black Jesus, and finally made its way back to the Basilica around 8p.m. By then, the entire population of the city had crammed into and around the main square to receive the blessing before the black Jesus was carried back into the church. There were literally hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children packed like sardines into the square and surrounding streets. We were caught in the crush. We couldn’t move. We were forced to stand there until the procession and blessing ended, and the people began to disperse. It was scary, as I get claustrophobic in crowds like that. There was nothing to do but endure, praying that no one panicked and started a stamped.
Also, earlier in the day, we found a market selling special cookies and meringues that are made just for this celebration. We, of course, had to buy a bag and taste the goods to get us into the proper mood of the celebration.
It was exciting and wonderful to take part in this local event, especially since were weren’t expecting it.
I have really loved every part of my stay in Peru. Tomorrow, we fly to Lima. We’ll have one day there, which we have arranged a city tour, and then fly on to Argentina for two more weeks of fun.