Customs, Food Culture

Cross Dressing Clowns Stalk Cuzco’s Streets

A Maqt'a Kissing a Lady in the Meddle of a Feast (Photo: Wayra)

Cuzco can be a tough city, especially for people who lack resources. One weapon people can rely on to earn money is to do a public performance in the city’s streets. If you look you see people singing and playing instruments, dancing, juggling (sometimes with fire) at intersections, and making jokes.

Every day street performers go out to make their living. Among them are men who dress as if they were female clowns. They use big balloons to give themselves exaggerated hips and excessive breasts. Each morning the move through the streets seeking victims of their humor in order to sell candies. Their goal each day is to sell their entire bag of sweets.

Their means of performance is simple. They look for a couple, especially one in love. Then they will go up to them. They speak to the man in a vulgar and suggestive language, using effeminate ways: “What are you doing with this? Where did you leave the kids?”

Some are more gentle and attack the young man with warmth and suggestive love. “Hi papi”. The thrust their breasts and hips of balloons at the man while his girlfriend or wife breaks out in laughter.

Cross Dressing Clown Trying to Sell by Calling a Man "Papi" (Photo: Wayra)
Cross Dressing Clown Trying to Sell by Calling a Man “Papi” (Photo: Wayra)

In the end the couple, after enjoying the suggestive performance, buys candy from the cross-dressing clown.

While some people who see these performances get mad and other see them as perverted acts, most people seem to enjoy them.

One of the most common places for this kind of performances is the San Pedro Market. Every day you can find these clowns there. You often find them on Marquez Street as well where they create a stir as they move through the street.

Besides showing a public face of happiness and female seduction and wiles, these clowns shoulder a lot of responsibility. Behind their costumes you find fathers of families who use this technique to make money to put food on the table. It is but one of people’s ways of generating income in a difficult economy.

Maqt'a Claiming Love (Photo: Wayra)
Maqt’a Claiming Love (Photo: Wayra)

These clowns fit not just in the field of street performers, but also into the world of traditional comic figures. The famous Maqt’as, for example, such as those you see disciplining pedestrians and traffic on the Sun Avenue, also are known to approach couples suggestively, although they may focus on the wife, it is not unheard of for them to approach the male of the couple.

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