Christmas is a special time of the year in Cusco, unlike other places this holiday is celebrated with a huge artisans fair done in the heart of the city, the Main Square. This fair is celebrated every December 24th and is better known as Santurantikuy, a quechua word that translates into “sale of saints”, since this fair brings together artisans from all over Cusco and other regions to sell a wide array of handicrafts, but most of all, images of Niño Manuel (baby Jesus) that will decorate the whole city.
Nevertheless, the Christmas spirit does not wait until December 24th, from the beginning of the month you can find the Cusco City Hall and the balconies from the Historic Center adorned with lights, nativities and wreaths. The Santurantikuy is one of the many popular expressions that show the mixture between Andean and Spanish cultures, since it incorporates elements of the catholic church with Andean beliefs such as the Apus (spirits of the Andes) and the Pachamama (mother earth). There is no better example of this wonderful fusion that the diverse representations of Niño Manuel that can be found in this fair, portraying him with indigenous traits and in different attitudes.
As time has gone by the Santurantikuy has become one of the biggest artisan fairs in Peru, since it brings together all kinds of popular art representations such as pottery, textiles, silversmith, stone carving, and painting, among many others. The artisans arrive at the Main Square and liven up the place with this make shift market that catches the attention of both locals and visitors, it is a true demonstration of the cultural richness of Cusco.
If you wish to experience the local culture, you should not miss the opportunity to visit Peru during Christmas. The Santurantikuy is only one of the many celebrations held all over the country, each joined by a particular set of customs that only highlight the cultural diversity of this beautiful country.
Sources: EMUFEC – Municipal Festivities Enterprise of Cuzco and Promperu