On the Plaza

Tourist on Cuzco's Plaza

Cuzco Eats introduces poet Clark deJong and his depiction of life on the plazas of Cuzco in this post.  Hardly a traveler visits Cuzco who doesn’t at least cross the majestic Plaza de Armas with its broad walkways, gardens, and benches surrounded by extensive collonnades and monumental temples (the Cathedral and the Company of Jesus).  While pigeons throng to the square for the grains sold to passersby who feed them, both Cuzqueños and tourists sit and watch, or just wait.

Though people can share the same blue bench, a line divides them like a razor.  Vendors who depend on selling their services or wares flock, like pigeons, to the outsiders and ignore the Cuzqueños as if they had a sixth sense. Inevitably the visitors get their shoes shined or look at paintings, carved gourds, brightly colored acrylic caps, etc. or they try to decline.  This engagement, sometimes hostile, sometimes simply commercial, and sometimes delightful is one of the first encounters people have with the city and its people.
First Conversation
“You promised yesterday

you’d let me shine your shoes.”

“But I wasn’t here yesterday!”

“The last time you were here

you promised.”

“The last time I was here

You were not alive.

What year are you in school?”

“Fifth grade. What country are you from?

I have an American coin.

Change it for me will you.

How much is it worth in Peruvian money?

Look.  Your shoes are dirty.

Let me polish them for only one sol.”

“Not today. I want my shoes dirty.

If you shine them they’ll just get dirty again.”

“Tomorrow then Mister. Promise me

Tomorrow I can shine your shoes.“

by Clark deJong

Roving Shoeshine Boy
Roving Shoeshine Boy

On Display


hang empty.

No one

has worn them

for years.


their eyes,

their beards


by Clark deJong

Woven Ukuku Masks
Woven Ukuku Masks

Orange Cake

“Orange Cake, mister.  One sol.  Buy from me.”

Holding the tray of grainy cake, wearing

old, dirty clothes, his cheeks chapped by the cold

the boy said “you speak Spanish. Cómprame.

“Buy one from me or buy one for me.  I’m

hungry.”  “Just go ahead and eat a piece!”

“No, mister.  I can’t.  I am working.  I have

to sell them all.  Come on mister.  Buy one.

Why are you so mean?  Where do you come from?

Oh, you’re American.”  “But you are too.

Peru is also America.”  “Sir

you are so mean.  Please buy a piece of cake.”

“I’m leaving boy.  I am mean!  I’ll buy cake.”

Orange cake crumbs outline his boyish lips.

by Clark deJong

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