Semana Santa in Cusco is celebrated in a very special way ; the beginning of the most important week in the Catholic world, is marked by the departure in procession of the Lord of the Earthquakes or ‘Taytacha’ and during the week traditional and deep-rooted activities are developed. An example of this is eating the classic 12 dishes on Holy Friday.
This practice is widely spread throughout the imperial region, where the arrival of Good Friday is preceded by a period of fasting. On Good Friday at midday a bounty of soups, seconds, stews and desserts is eaten in almost all households.
On Good Friday, while some take advantage of the holiday to make trips, others fill the markets and stalls selling traditional Cuzco foods. From early on, thousands of housewives are seen acquiring products for the preparation of these 12 dishes, in which meat of any kind is not used.
The dishes are varied and their ingredients have been changing over time, however the processing remains almost intact despite the years, so we find the tasty lawa or corn soup from Cusco, then the soup ollucos or smooth soup of machas and shrimp. As second people usually have rice with seafood, fried fish with rice, sweat of Andean trout and for dessert the famous empanadas cusqueñas, sighs, condesas (corn muffins), purple mazamorra and seasonal fruit stews.
In the past, along with the 12 dishes, the children were often whipped at home, in order to “help” Christ in their suffering, and after fasting and whipping, the 12 dishes were a reward on Good Friday.
The habit of preparing the 12 plates gathers the Cusco families, who generally distribute the preparation of the soups, seconds and desserts among the family members. After everyone has cooked their dish they arrive, at the biggest house in the family, with the prepared stews. Generally the food is prepared by the older family members and there is a kind of contest to see who has prepared the best dish.