Tio Mario

July 2nd, 2007

It has been 20 years since a cart selling anticuchos appeared on the streets of the district of Barranco. Every afternoon Mario Farfán and his wife would sell their anticuchos to passers-by eventually saving enough money to open what is today one of the best anticucherías in Barranco. Mario’s cart has been exchanged for a large restaurant in a prime location overlooking the Bridge of the Sighs which he was able to buy for $160,000 US.

The story of Mario Farfán is not unusual and shows that as many opportunities exist for Peruvians as for anyone else in any other country. “What we have today is the fruit of my labour of 20 years. I worked in construction, but the income was too low to maintain my children of 4 and 5 years”, Mario told El Comercio. So to help the family his wife Teófila began selling sweets from a cart in Barranco. “When we saw that anticucho sellers earned more we decided to switch. That was in 1986.”

Life was hard. Teófila would spend the day making anticuchos on the street and Mario at a construction site. When he finished work, Mario would head straight to his wife to help out. Their two children spent the day under the cart with their mother. Mario eventually left his construction job and the couple put all their effort into the anticucho business.

The couple spent years working the cart and saving what they could, then in 1996 the local authorities decided to remove street trade from the district. The cart was taken away and the couple were forced to decide what to do next. “I had some capital to invest, about $6,000, so we decided we would rent a locale. But we stayed informal (not registering their business with the tax authorities) until 2000, when the mayor said to me, ‘Tio Mario, you have to put your documents in order’. It was then I registered the business.”

They spent a few years in one locale, then some more in another and their business increased and increased. They found they had managed to save as much as $50,000. Seeing their income and predicting future success, they received a large loan from the bank and were able to buy their current property. “We have 10 times the business we had before. We sell about 20,000 palitos each month. On a good day we have S./10,000 ($3500) in sales.”

Tio Mario serves excellent anticuchos and provides good service. Just make sure you don’t ask to thank, meet or even talk to the man himself. “No, you can’t meet him”, his son grunted, with father looking on in the back of the room with a menacing face as his son pointed us towards the door.

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