Festival of the Crosses – Fiesta de las Cruces in Peru

The Festival of the Crosses, also known as Cruces de Mayo (May Crosses Festival), was introduced to Peru by the Spaniards and is celebrated in Peru mostly in towns in the Andean highlands on May 3.

When the Spaniards conquered the Incas and took control over the extensive empire, they tried to eradicate local customs, traditions and feasts by replacing them with Christian counterparts.

Ancient festivities celebrated by local peasant farmers at the end of the southern hemisphere summer to thank mother earth for a rich harvest were supposed to disappear with introducing the Spanish May Crosses Festival. But instead of getting rid of the unwanted non-Christian traditions, these two traditional celebrations merged and developed into a “peruvianized” version of the religious festival.

As hundreds of years ago, today members of mostly rural communities still prepare large wooden crosses and decorate them lavishly with flowers and traditional fabrics. In huge processions the worshippers then carry the crosses to neighboring churches. The festivities are often accompanied by folk music and traditional dances, including the famous danzantes de tijeras (scissors dancers).

While in Apurimac, Ayacucho, Ica, Junin, Pasco and Puno the festivities are usually just called Fiesta de las Cruces, Cusco celebrates the Fiesta de la Cruz Velacuy and Huancavelica the Fiesta del Espíritu Santo (usually later in May)

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