If you can be in Ayacucho for Semana Santa, the Holy Week beginning the Friday before Easter, you’ll see fabulous daily processions, pageants and nightly candlelit processions centred on the Catedral. But beware of the beautiful procession of the Virgen Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows), which takes place the Friday before Palm Sunday: pebbles are fired at the crowd (particularly at children and foreigners) by expert slingers so that onlookers take on the pain of La Madre de Dios, and so supposedly reduce her suffering. Around May 23, there is the elaborate religious procession of the Fiesta de las Cruces, when festivities often involve the local “scissors” folkdance performed by two men, each wielding a rather dangerous pair of cutlasses.

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