Posted on December 24, 2015
I read that the Main Square, or plaza, of Cusco, Peru, seems to be transformed at Christmas time. Local artisans and sculptors bring out their best works and exhibit them on blankets laid out on the sidewalks, just like traditional Andean fairs.
This festival's name, Santuranticuy, can be translated as “Sale of the Saints.” Many of the items offered for sale are religious figures and figurines for nativity scenes. Miniature animals are also offered for sale – even animals that don't appear in the average nativity scene. Of course there are other handcrafted items, as well—everything from backpacks and jewelry to dolls and toy trucks. This is one of the largest arts and crafts fairs in Peru.
Naturally, some vendors sell refreshments and food. At night, street vendors sell a traditional hot, sweet rum punch called ponche.
I read that some very poor families come to Cusco for Santuranticuy from the country; they spend a few nights at the Main Square, even though there is little shelter from rain or cold. They bring herbs that they have grown and offer them for sale. Many of these herb growers don't speak Spanish, but instead speak Quechua.
Some organizations rally to help these poor families. They offer them free hot chocolate and panetón (Peruvian Christmas cake), and they give gifts to the children. Carvana Cusco volunteers wear colorful clown costumes, and they entertain the children from these poor families with music, storytelling, theater and mime.
With so many people coming together – with the nativity figures representing the religious portion of Christmas – with kindness extended to the needy representing the secular values of giving and compassion – Santuranticuy seems to be a wonderful December 24th tradition!
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