Updated: Oct 12, 2021
The Snow Star Festival, an annual religious celebration, has been an integral part of Andean tradition and beliefs. But climate change and COVID-19 are threatening that.
At night, believers would use the reflection from the moon that cascaded atop snow-capped peaks as a guide to make their way up the sacred Colque Punku glacier. The tradition goes back centuries for pilgrims from various indigenous groups in the Andes who have made the journey through the Sinakara Valley in Peru during four days of religious festivities known as Qoyllur Rit’i, Quechuan for “the snow star festival.”
The Snow Star Festival has been an integral part of Andean tradition and beliefs. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, some 100,000 pilgrims would make their way to the Ocongate district in the southern highlands Cusco region of Peru.
This Festival, traditionally in late May or early June, mixes Roman Catholic and indigenous beliefs, honoring both Jesus Christ as well as the area’s glacier, which is considered sacred among some indigenous people. A central part of the pilgrimage is a sanctuary at the base of the mountain where a boulder features an image of Jesus Christ known as the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i (pronounced KOL-yer REE-chee). Believers dance and pray long into the night, seeking health, peace and prosperity.
In recent years, the Colque Punku has lost some of its brilliance. The snow that turns into ice that forms the glacier is melting. Researchers have determined that tropical glaciers in the Peruvian Andes have decreased in size by about 30 percent in recent years. “We are not losing the ground we walk on. We are losing our mother,” Hélio Regalado, who has participated in the pilgrimage for 10 years as a Wayri Chunchu dancer, says of melting glacier. #snowstarfestival #peruvianhistory #inca #perufestival #indigenouspeopleofperu #charapita #charapitafarms #hotpepper #peruvianpepper #aji