You will find done of the most visited of Cusco’s popular food markets in the district of Wanchaq. When people need to make purchases for their home, they come in numbers to the aisles. In this market you can find a bit of everything at economical prices, certainly in comparison with the supermarkets. The market takes its name from the district. It is the Wanchaq Market. From 5:30 am to 6:30 pm its seven doors are open.
The door to the fruit section opens on the corner of Garcilaso Avenue with Huáscar Street. You cross through the metal door, formally called Number 2, and then go up 8 stairs. Once inside you can appreciate the vast colorful and well scented space that is filled with the aromas of seasonal fruit. The space’s roof is lined with different umbrellas colored blue. Each stand has one.
You can also go in other doors. You walk just a bit but arrive at the section of fruit.
Each of the stands looks very colorful. They are filled with a great variety of fresh fruit at a range of prices. You can select, see, or feel with your hands, all before buying. There are almost always clients in the aisles who walk through comparing and checking the fruit, with their bags in their hands. Each step brings a new experience. Even if you go to the market every day seeking fruit, it is never the same.
The women of the stands come in different ages. They await their clients, each in her own place. Hey come dressed in green aprons next to their scales, ready to help us in the best manner possible. Their voices rise, tempting us to buy a bit of everything. “I have sweet papaya. Try some. The apples are sweet and just arrived. I have fresh pineapple that is sweet.” These are just some of the offers they make that you hear with each step you take.
The caseras, the vendors, are very pleasant in their treatment of you. They let you taste the fruit before you buy it. They will help you select it with patience and good humor, something that simply does not happen in the modern supermarkets.
It is very easy to let yourself get hooked in by the vendors. When I stopped to buy grapes, the casera Sandra, who helped me, had me try some. I asked her where they come from and when is their season, when you find the greatest variety. She opened her lips, completely secure in herself, and told me “the grapes come from the north and that their season begins in October. In the same way every one of the different fruits has its season. For example, at the beginning of January, you will see throughout the section a lot of cactus pears, regular pears, peaches, and plums. Mid-year which falls in June, there is more sugar cane, coconut, cherimoya, and watermelon. All year round you find fruit people always request: oranges, apples, bananas, tangerines, papayas, and avocados.” As she was telling me about the seasons, more clients came up and she treated them with as much friendliness and courtesy as she gave me.
Next, I went to another casera to buy oranges. I asked for 10 and she gave me two more for just 2 soles. She thanked me and said “Come back, caserito.” Before I left, I asked her where the fruit in the market came from. In just a few words she said: “It comes from the three regions of Peru, but there is some that also comes from Chile, Bolivia, and Ecuador.” Then she added, “On weekends, especially on Saturdays, trucks pull up from Qosñipata, Limatambo, and the Sacred Valley. The majority of us who sell in the market get our fresh produce from those trucks.”
Around the section you will find stands with tents that sell fruit, juices and punches. Others give haircuts and also offer technical services.
In the fruit section you will never see exactly the same thing because each fruit comes and goes according to its season and changes the colorful section. In the market of Wanchaq and in the other popular markets of Cusco, you can always find fresh fruit at good price. There you can see how they manage each day the business of fruit. When you are speaking with the caseras, face to face, you can identify more details about the fruit you most like, such s where they come from.