Because we arrived the week of Semana Santa – Easter, which is the biggest holiday in most of the Catholic world – much bigger than Christmas, we were lucky to catch the nightly processions of saints throughout the streets of Cuzco. The biggest one, on the Monday before Easter, involved about 100,000 citizens lining the streets and the central plaza to wait and watch the procession of the Lord of Earthquakes – a black Jesus
. The story of this Saint/Lord, is he is the Saint of Cuzco. A sculpture of a black Jesus on the cross had been brought to Cuzco by the Spaniards in one of their regular 'rape and killing of the Incas' events. He had been shoved in a back corner of some church they were building and left there in obscurity. In 1595, the first recorded massive earthquake hit Cuzco and lasted for 5 minutes, destroying nearly everything. People were so afraid and one person, suggested during the quake – to go get Black Jesus and bring him out for help – they did and the earth stopped quaking. Miracle. Since then he is believed to have saved Cuzco and since then, every year he is brought out. He is paraded through the streets, on a massive structure like a parade float, carried on the backs and shoulders on many many men. People hang from the churches and balconies and throw red flower petals on him as he goes by. The next massive earthquake was 300 years later (1995) – not sure what he was doing that day, but the city was devastated once again. He was not brought out during that earthquake but he has performed a recent miracle. Two years ago when it just would not stop raining - it rained straight for months causing them to close Machu Picchu for two months as well as massive rock and mud slides all over the south of Peru. The powers that be got together and decided they needed a miracle to stop the rain so they brought out the Lord of the Earthquakes into the cental square and ....yup....it stopped raining right then. Try and argue with that. Impossible.
I got to see the love and devotion for the The Lord of the Earthquakes that night -
Cuzco, or Cusco – both spellings used. Small, intimate, safe, charming and completely walkable. But chilly – especially for me as I apparently have become quite soft after 5 months in the warmth. Our first Hotel was freezing – even with a heater in the room so we whined to our tour guide…gotta love all this personalized, easy peasy stuff, and she found us a much nicer place with a betterlocation, just two blocks from the center square – where all the action takes place.