Easter in Ayacucho is considered the most moving and beautiful religious festival in Peru. The entire population of the city gets involved in a week of processions,
religious fervor and raucous street parties, and thousands flock to Ayacucho from around the country.
It all starts on the Friday before Palm Sunday, with the unveiling of the image of La Dolorosa. Two processions mark Palm Sunday itself.
A horde of mules and llamas, laden with dried flowers, leads a crowd of orchestras on two circuits of the plaza.
The flowers are then burned in an intense religious ceremony.
At 4 o’clock the church of Santa Teresa puts on a procession marking the start of the Passion, with Christ entering Jerusalem on a white mule, surrounded by the apostles. On Friday night the plaza hosts a symbolic meeting between images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, each on a throne, is too much for many onlookers, who burst into tears. All lights in Ayacucho are turned off for the candlelight vigil through town, marking the death of Jesus.
The procession starts the church of Santo Domingo, and a crowd of weeping followers, dressed in black, walks streets blanketed in flower petals Saturday is a day of celebration, with a bull released every half hour to rampage through town surrounded by screaming children. Everyone dances late into the night in the Plaza de Armas, drinking chicha and aguardiente, the local firewater. Easter Sunday starts before dawn, with a procession of the Resurrected Christ, a statue on a blazing white pyramid, surrounded by thousands of candles, ringing bells and fireworks.
The festival ends with a full-scale running of the bulls, cock-fights and a final round of parties, before thousands of visitors return to Lima, and life in Ayacucho returns to normal.