Sraddhalu Ranade at a beach sunset

Andean Peru, Pilgrimage of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit'i

Zoila Mendoza introduces the indigenous Andean pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i in her original film.


ZOILA: The pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i is the largest of Peru and perhaps of the Andean region, with about 40 to 50 thousand participants. According to oral tradition, the best way to honor the Lord is with music and dance, the Chakiri Wayri being his favorite one. The Chakiri Wayri music announces the beginning of the pilgrimage. They go through the town announcing their departure.

ZOILA: The main Church of the town is Catholic and a stop there is a must before leaving and upon returning. For Pomacanchi pilgrims, the walk lasts three days and two nights walking approximately 85 miles at an average altitude of almost 15 thousand feet. Each sunrise and sunset, during the walk or at the sanctuary, the pilgrims salute the sun with the Alawaru (song of praise). This melody inspires devotion and respect to the forces that are invoked or greeted.

ZOILA: The pilgrims carry the stones on their backs from the bottom of the last steep climb to the Apachetas (prayer sites with rock mounds), representing faults or sins. By unloading the stones at the Apachetas, pilgrims leave behind their faults or sins getting closer to the pampache (forgiveness) or forgiveness that they seek. Apachetas have existed since pre-Hispanic times. Like today, the apachetas were obligatory stops for the travelers where they invoked and honored superior forces. Here, besides unloading the stones, a ritual will take place where the new members will be initiated or “baptized” and where the pilgrims will pursue the pampache.

ZOILA: Pilgrims emphasize the importance of the unity of sound, sight and motion during this extraordinary experience. Comparsa (dance troupe) members climb to the sanctuary with their Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i icons, their banners and the Chakiri Wayri music. The pilgrims build, buy or act out according to what they wish for their future. For example building a house, buying a truck, getting a university degree or just earning some cash.

ZOILA: The central point of veneration in the sanctuary, is the image of the Christ on a rock that is known as the Señor de Qoyllur Rit’i or Lord of the Shiny Snow. All the comparsas and other visitors enter the church to salute this miraculous Christ. According to tradition, in this place, an alpaca shepherd boy, Marianito Mayta, met with the boy Jesus. Together they danced the Chakiri Wayri and that made Marianito’s herd increase greatly. That is why the Chakiri Wayri, in all its different versions, is the musical theme of the pilgrimage.

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