What Is Semana Santa in Cusco, Peru?

Semana Santa can be translated as “Holy Week.” When is Semana Santa in Peru? Holy Week or Semana Santa is the week leading up to Easter. If you find out which Sunday Easter falls on, you can expect that the 7 days leading up to Easter Sunday will be filled with events across the country. That’s why Easter in Peru is a popular time to visit Cusco and Machu Picchu.

Millions of devotees congregate at the Cusco Cathedral and other churches across the city as Holy Week in Peru is a time of great faith and reflection. In Cusco, similarly to the rest of Peru, you’ll see thousands of people participating in processions during the days of Holy Week, a custom that has been passed down through generations.

One of the largest processions that brings together a huge part of the Cusco population involves carrying the statue of “Taytacha Temblores” (also known as “Señor de los Temblores” and translated as “Lord of Earthquakes”), the patron saint of Cusco. What makes this statue unique is that the status of Jesus has a darker skin color, supposedly designed that way in the 1500s so that the locals would better identify with him. Every year on Holy Monday of Semana Santa, this statue of the crucifixion of Jesus is carried through the main streets of the historic center of Cusco and around the Plaza de Armas of Cusco.

Many people from Cusco (Cusqueños) also believe in the healing properties of plants, herbs and roots specifically on Good Friday of Semana Santa. Farmers from Cusco and its surrounding towns sell an incredible variety of curative or medicinal herbs all around San Pedro Market right in the historic center of the city for the traditional “Hampirantikuy” (a combination of the Quechua words “hampiy” meaning “to cure” and “rantikuy” meaning “to buy”). Another curious fact about Good Friday in Cusco is that Cusqueños traditionally eat 12 plates of food, alluding to the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ, even though Good Friday is typically a day of fasting and abstinence for Catholics elsewhere worldwide.

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