The Women of San Pedro Market

| January 3, 2012 | 2 Comments

When arriving in a new city, one of the first stops on any itinerary should be the local market.  If you’re headed to Cusco, be sure to take a day or an afternoon to explore the city on foot. Of particular note is the San Pedro Market—a covered open-air market encompassing three city blocks. Located West of the Plaza de Armas near the San Pedro Train Station, Cusco’s central market is a vibrant spot that can keep you entertained for the better part of a day.

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San Pedro market is very photogenic!

Here you can have a first-hand look at how locals live day-to-day, outside the confines of Cusco’s tourist zones. Get off the beaten path a little bit and head to market for a truly Peruvian experience. And bring lots of film—or make sure that you have abundant space on your memory card. Cusco continually reveals itself as the perfect setting! It’s a very photogenic city.

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One of the oldest markets in continuous operation in South America.

Part of the fun is listening to the witty exchanges between neighbouring stall holders, as they compete for the attention of customers. Once the goods are selected, buyers and sellers set about bargaining.

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Farm fresh chicken.

Often referred to as the “Big Market” or the “Central Market”, San Pedro was one of the earliest markets to open in Cuzco. It’s been in continuous operation since the beginning of eighteenth century. As Cuzco has grown, other markets have opened up—including big box grocers—but San Pedro Market still stands out.

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A butcher shop unlike any other.

It’s comprised of different stands housed under a roof of corrugated metal. The stands are organized according to their wares, so that all the butchers are grouped together as are the fruit juice vendors and the vegetable stalls.

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Tending to her wares.

There are also vendors that have dry goods for sale so that it’s possible to get pretty much everything you need without stepping foot in a grocery store. You’ll find blankets and clothes here, too.

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Vendors spill out of the market into nearby alleys.

Early each morning, the proprietors come in from the countryside around Cusco and deposit their goods—or spread them out on the ground and spill over onto the steps of the nearby church. While the main market is interesting in its own right, you really need to wander through the back streets to capture a different kind of vibe.

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Offering a ladle of...

When we visited in 2009, San Pedro was crazy, with stall holders illegally squatted on the sidewalks, rubbish litter and pick pockets. Although we’ve heard over the past year that the municipality is seeking to stop vendors without licences and are now removing them.

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Fresh fruit by the bushel.

What boggles the mind is that each of these vendors closes down their stand every evening and return home, coming back the following morning in the dark with their good. We are talking about a massive inventory of goods—rivalling the big box stores of the West—brought in each day and taken away each night.

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Carving up dried alpaca.

Markets are the melting pots of culture—a travellers gateway into a locale’s unfamiliar, indigenous lifestyle. The tight, meandering aisles, the frantic hubbub, the pervasive energy, the exotic stenches and the vortex of colours make markets the perfect place to start a journey. If you really want to get a feel for the sights and smells of an ordinary day for the residents of Cusco, San Pedro is a side trip not to be missed.

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About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

Comments (2)

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  1. Beautiful photos! My husband loves Peru (he spent two years there) and I can’t wait until we make it as a family. :)

  2. Jonathan says:

    Me and my wife absolutely love this market – I have many similar photos to those which you have, I particularly loved the women selling cheese, and the incredibly friendly workers and customers in the mini restaurant area who were so so kind and warm in their reception of us.

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