Cusco is characterized by being a festive city with diverse activities throughout the year. You see parades of typical dances, floats that are allegories on wheels, marches, as well as cultural and religious festivals. During these moments where the population gathers in the city’s plazas to be watch them and be present, you will find vendors in the streets selling disposable cups of handmade drinks in disposable cups. We have a whole array of drinks; we call them refrescos (they are like the aguas frescas of Mexico), made from a many different natural fruits and other ingredients. Their colors are a temptation and a pleasure for those moments when it is hot and we are in the midst of a fiesta.
The most popular refrescos found in Cusco are chicha morada (purple corn drink), quinoa chicha, maracuyá (passion fruit), apple agua, starfruit, pineapple agua, carrot chicha, barley water, and fresh teas (generally these are served room temperature or cool). These are just a few of the many drinks you will find while walking down the city’s streets, its plazas, and popular markets.
It is fascinating to see the different colors of the drinks that stand out through the transparent walls of the buckets in which the caseras, vendors, carry them. You will see purple, orange, yellow, white, red, brown. These are the tempting colors of the natural refrescos found in the different zones of our city.
Our caseras sell them at a comfortable price for the people’s pockets. Each glass costs from one to two soles. You will always find the vendors inside the popular markets. Some caceras have fixed stands while other walk around and offer the drinks straight from their carts and buckets with these colorful drinks.
Trying each flavor takes you to the essence of the fruit. In each sip you enjoy the content and await with anticipatory delight the second pour they always give you.
During these days of heat, you will find gathered around the caseras knots of clients awaiting their turn to be served. You will hear questions such as which kind of fruit is she using, whether she will give them a bit more of a certain color, what is the refresco good for, among others. Some people, when they see the colorful drinks choose by color which one they find most attractive. Others ask about the taste and the nutritional value before consuming.
When I walk in our streets to go to the markets, for example, I always drink one of these wonderful drinks.
In the Wanchaq Market, inside, in the fruit section, you will find the casera named Paulina. She has a small stand with medicinal refrescos in a display case before her and to her side transparent buckets of other refrescos. She makes these concentrated drinks. You sit down at her stand in them you can see some of the fruit pulp. She makes sure each glass she serves up has a bit of the fruit. She has a list different medicinal drinks and the illnesses they are good for. She is almost always occupied, though happy and inviting while helping her clients. She said “My clients always return and many know me because the refreshments I prepare are natural and medicinal. They have always given good results. That is what my clients say and that makes me continue to work with them.”
During the day, it is a pleasure to try every one of these drinks that, besides being refreshing, are healthy and nutritious for a minds and bodies.