Hiding Wallets and Hugging Backpacks at the Baratillo

On a recent Saturday SVH volunteer Amy and I met in the Ollanta Plaza de Armas at 5am to catch a ride into Cusco for some early morning shopping. Luckily, there was a combi already partially filled, and we hit the road by 5:15. Despite our best efforts to nap on the ride, the ride to Cusco is curvy, bumpy, and our driver insisted on playing huayno music loudly on the speakers the whole way there. We made it to our stop Pavitos by 6:30, and in a daze walked the few short blocks to the Baratillo, the Cusco black market held on Saturday mornings.

To get the best deals, one has to shop with the locals, bargaining for low prices before crowds of tourists come later in the morning. Amy and I were both carefully warned by our host families to watch our bags and wallets, especially after I had my wallet recently swiped on a trip to the jungle town of Quillabamba. To reinforce the point, however, an older woman walked up to us on the first corner of the Baratillo and told us, “Te cuidado y guarda sus mochillas!” We immediately hugged our backpacks to our chests and tied the zippers into secure knots.

The countless vendors and stalls sold everything imaginable, from clothes, textiles, and souvenirs to practical items like cookware, electronics, and hardware. We spent the most time looking through handmade blankets, skirts, and tapestries, and found more beautiful items at each subsequent seller than the last. We each bought ourselves traditional hand-woven floor rugs, and I bought similarly fashioned pillowcases, a yarn-spun wall hanging, and a few smaller trinkets. Though most of the clothes sold at the Baratillo are unfashionable modern t-shirts and jeans, we found a few people selling traditional Quechua garb. These great finds were too hard to pass up, and we each bought the Quechua men’s caps and Amy found a classic Quechua skirt.

SVH volunteer Amy Veinoglou in a typical Quechua skirt

No item we bought went un-bartered, and we walked away with amazing deals (best, I think, were the floor rugs for about USD$22). By 8:30, with nearly 2 hours of shopping complete, we staggered away with our arms full and in desperate need of a cup of coffee.

Written by SVH volunteer Lila Fridley

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