Natural colors and fresh scents rise from the heart of fruit. These, along with fast moving hands, wide smiles, and flirtatious looks draw many to the juice sector of Cuzco’s San Pedro Market.
Two blocks north of the emblematic Plaza de Armas (Main Square) of Cuzco we find the oldest and most traditional market of Cuzco. Generally this market is called the Big Market or the Central Market. That is how our grandparents new it. It was one of the earliest markets to open in Cuzco at the beginning of the XVIII century. As Cuzco’s population has grown other markets have opened in Cuzco’s neighborhoods to meet the population’s needs. But this market, now called the San Pedro Market, still stands out. Not only is it a place where locals shop, it is a tourist destination; there tourists can enjoy many of our traditional day to day activities.
One of the most attractive aspects of the market are the booths selling natural juices. They are made with a range of fresh fruit, from common to exotic brought from the jungle area of La Convención near Quillabamba, as well as other parts of Peru.
Just as every year tourism to Cuzco grows a bit, this market has also increased. The market’s merchants realized the demand created by tourism and they have worked to improve their services as well as innovate to draw more people, both from the local population and national and international visitors to Cuzco.
Once we enter through them main door, the many colors of skirts hanging from the door draw our attention. But this is not what draws us. Instead our nose leads us deeper into the market where there is fresh fruit. They are lined up and once we get there we can appreciate the rows of different colors, some brighter than others.
The juice sector, called the Sector de Juguerías, consists of small booths occupied by women who offer their juices. Each exhibits the best fresh fruit she has obtained in order to attract clients. They also generally have a small display case where they keep special ingredients they can add to the juices. We can also see, without surprise, the blenders and juicers they use to make their juices as well as chairs where clients may sit and enjoy the product.
It is fun to watch the vendors, women as well as young women, trying to captivate passersby with their attractive and coquette-ish smiles and words. In this charming way they try to claim clients. But the will also offer them a daily newspaper to occupy them while their juice is being extracted or blended, since everything is natural and fresh.
The flavors of these juices are intense, since they are made from pure, whole fruit, without the addition of water to dilute it. On the menu that each of them have one can find a great variety of juices according to the desires or needs of the clients. Some just taste good, and some are medicinal as well. Others are filled with vitamins. The most demanded is what is called “Combinado” which is a juice made from a selection of fruits including papaya, banana, fresh-squeezed orange juice, as well as beet juice to give it a characteristic reddish color. But there are also juices made from a single fruit which can be combined with fresh, pasteurized milk. These are popular and include strawberries and milk, mango with milk, etc.
Then, as we noted, there are also the medicinal juices such as aloe vera with alfalfa (sábila con alfalfa) that is very good for dis-inflaming tissues, as well as carrot and beet juice which is good for eyesight they say. And then there is one that they way will revitalize you, give you energy and remove you from laziness. That is one made with all the fruits, milk, and egg, an a bottle of dark beer or one of malta (a non-alcoholic beer) as well as teaspoonfuls of maca, honey, and carob powder.
There is no end to the mixtures of juices that we can request to satisfy our palate. And there may well be no juice that you can not taste in the historic San Pedro Market.