We visited the the Sanctuary Of Yauca today, on the desert plains southeast of Ica.

The sanctuary is dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary, and has an amazing history and tradition behind it, one that is still vibrant today. It was a great experience to witness it firsthand.

Every year on the first Sunday of October, people from all over the Ica region come to celebrate the site - an estimated 15,000 visitors in a single day to an otherwise nearly abandoned village. Some come on foot:

Pilgrimage By Foot

Other, such as ourselves, came by car:

Pilgrimage By Car

Note how the road expand from two lanes to four as we approach the church. The large truck to our left nearly tipped trying to create a fifth one.

The story behind the church dates back to 1701. Off in the desert, three locals found a tiny abandoned statue of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.

From the Forums of the Virgin Mary:

They then thought to move it to Ica, but when trying to lift it failed. They interpreted this as a wish of the Mother of God to remain in those desolate lands. With the help of Calixto Muñoz, they built a simple chapel nearby; and it was only after his prayer that the image was able to be gently brought to her new home, to the amazement of everyone present. The news spread through valleys and mountains, and since then the Virgin of Yauca is revered by her children from Ica, who made her their patroness, especially in October when they pay their filial tribute and warm devotion. (Translation by JPK and Google)

The tribute comes in the form of the above-mentioned pilgrimage, with many walking as far as 30 kilometers on foot through the dust and sand, the most devoted chanting and praying as they go.

Upon arrival, the church is a beautiful site:

The Sanctuary of Yauca

And for reference, this is what it looked like on a Sunday a month earlier. Still beautiful, but nearly empty:

The Sanctuary of Yauca

The surrounding market is also pretty amazing - there is an incredible array of food, drink and souvenirs on offer:

Market Souvenirs

I tried the Chicharron, which is a Peruvian favorite and seemed to be especially popular here. It was incredible - a huge, fresh, heavily-seasoned, deep-fried pork shank. Not something to be eaten everyday, but delicious:

Chicharron

We also got some excellent green (i.e., not yet ripe) mango. The tartness of the unripe fruit is cut with vinegar and salt - definitely a treat.

We left heading back into a mild sandstorm:

Sandstorm

A thoroughly enjoyable trip, and one that left me thinking of a wonderful film, Fellini’s Roma:

In the opening scene (partially shown in the trailer above), the director films (and films himself filming) a journey into Rome. It’s rainy, traffic-jammed, replete with fiery accidents, and finally, a total impasse as the cars come to a halt by the colisseum.

Fellini's Roma

Fellini creates an amazing, chaotic mash of the modern and ancient. And in doing so, he shows us the beauty that is everywhere - and not just in the stuff that everyone agrees is beautiful. But he finds there is beauty in the everyday, mundane stuff as well. Perhaps even moreso.

And this messy pilgrimage, a jumble of sand, food, alcohol, combustion, devotion, and (even) bouncy castles, I think perfectly captures his point.

John Kelvie // 02 October 2016