The Streets of Cusco [Featured]

November 13th, 2007

Alan Malarkey is currently in the city of Cusco studying Spanish, and writes about his time there on his blog Malarkey en Perú. Below he gives us an idea of day to day life on the streets of the city.

Museums are interesting but life on the streets of Cuzco provides a greater insight into the lot of the people here. Most streets near and towards the centre are busy. There is a great deal of traffic, particularly taxis, usually very small Dawoos (Ticos) that speed constantly to and fro. If they are empty they toot as they pass a likely customer. The fumes from the traffic are strong and it is clear that many vehicles would not pass emission tests. You need to take care because cars don’t slow down for corners and rarely signal – if you do get in the way they have fast reactions and rarely show annoyance. As well as taxis, combi-vans pass stopping at paraderos (bus stops) , occasionally a boy jumps out running to a machine where he stamps a card and dashes back. Combis are some where between buses and taxis in price but follow a set route.

Much can be bought on the street- there is a fleet of ice cream tricycles and others that sell general goods. Shoe shiners line parts of the street and girls stand on corners calling “llamadas llamadas” selling telephone credit. Money changers stand on Avenida Sol clutching a wad of bank notes and a calculator and nearer the centre girls call “masaje sir?”.

All kinds of food can be bought, most commonly, tamales, chicken soup and rice, sweets, pineapple cut into slices. today in the Feria near my house people were selling cooked Pork cut there and then from the bodies of small pigs and fancy bread either in the form of a horse for boys or a doll for girls.

Many streets have people begging – this includes whole families sitting on the pavement, very old women, people with physical disabilities and sometimes families with animals and children in traditional costume hoping for photograph opportunities.

I have counted five kinds of police, national, local, transit, tourist and private and often they stand on corners in groups of three or four. They are invariably smartly dressed and yesterday I saw some security guards leaving a bank heading for a truck – they had packets of bank notes and there guns were drawn as they walked cautiously to the van.

I suppose tourists make up an obvious proportion of street life and we all look fairly out of place and obvious among the throng.

This is also a city of young people and children are everywhere often smartly dressed in uniform on their way to or from school. Largely they seem polite and well behaved. In the evenings the centre has many young people and night clubs stay open until 4 or 5 am, later I am told than in other parts of the country. Lastly, one sees quite a lot of young couples, often cuddling and kissing one another with a relative lack of self consciousness.

These are lively streets, a slice of life here in Cuzco, and with much to offer the casual observer.

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