Pablo José de Arriaga, a Spanish Jesuit missionary to South America between 1585 – 1622, was given the task of uprooting indigenous religions in Peru. After working on this project for many years, and (according to the Jesuit society of Peru) becoming the principal ethnographer of Peru during that period, de Arriaga published a book called The Extirpation of Idolatry in Peru.
While doing a bit of reading about “Domingo de las Cruces,” the celebration that took place in our town today, I came across an interesting quote from de Arriaga that relates directly to this fiesta.
“The Indians worshiped them (stone huacas, or idols) as guardians of the town. These huacas were disposed of like all the rest and crosses were put in their places.” Pablo José de Arriaga, 1621
Here are a few pictures of the huacas that the Jesuit missionary was talking about…
When the Jesuits saw these stone-carved huacas sitting like guardians on the hills above each village, they assumed that they could uproot the idolatrous custom of annual fiestas for the idols by replacing the stones with a cross. Hence, the celebration I documented today, when villagers from all around brought their guardian crosses into town to be blessed in the two largest Catholic churches.
Why don’t you join me on my pictorial walk through town this morning, and you can be the judge of whether or not Pablo José de Arriaga was able to extirpate idolatry from Peru.
While women wait to have their small crosses blessed by the priest, others bring their large village crosses into town accompanied by music & dancing.
Some of the dancers depict ferocious Andean animals. The wolf wouldn’t move along in his dance until I snapped a couple of photos!
No Peruvian parade or fiesta is complete without food and lots of beer.
“Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.”
“The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary.” Isaiah 41:1
The front of the Soledad church is lined with people and crosses, waiting for their priestly blessing. St. John looks down from his niche in the cathedral wall. I wonder what he’s thinking about the show?
Pablo José de Arriaga wrote his book about uprooting idolatry in Peru in 1621. In the 399 years since, exchanging the stone-carved huaca for a cross is pretty much the only thing that has changed in this celebration of Domingo de las Cruces. Luis and I took a walk through town at the end of the day and were rather disgusted, though unfortunately not surprised, to see the streets littered with trash and broken beer bottles, a fight in the street that left a Quechua lady bleeding and taken away in a police truck, and drunk people everywhere, many of them urinating in the street. It certainly didn’t seem like an appropriate ending to a religious ceremony! And I’m fairly sure that the Jesuit missionary would be deeply disappointed if he had walked the streets with us today. I’m guessing that even he would realize that his campaign to uproot the idolatry from Peru didn’t really work. Because you can’t just replace one idol with another…
…by exchanging a pre-Christian era huaca for the Christian symbol of a cross. That’s religion.
Getting rid of idols requires replacing one LIFE with another.
Mine for His, and His for mine.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21