A vast and yet intimate space, covered in oscillating white, opens like a world waiting to be discovered. This is the tourist market which on two days a week is joined by a rural food market, seems to have taken over the center of the ancient town of Pisac. Above it the terraces rise like giant steps into the tops of the mountains where a majestic archeological site, also called Pisac, claims the mountain’s top, with higher peaks rising above it.
If you look from above at the town, as you drop down into the sacred valley from Cusco, its heart is clothed in competing planes of white which cover the streets and pathways.
Once you arrive and enter into this world of lightly dancing oblique white which makes the bright colors of handicrafts shine as if with internal light. You look down the long rows into a world which seems to have no horizon, infinite and yet finite. With each step different handicrafts draw your eyes as depths open up on the side of stores that can go deep into the houses that once lined this street alone.
Scents will also draw you to the bakeries with their fresh bread baked in rustic ovens or empanada pies as well as full meals. It is as if you could like your whole like inside this continent of a market without ever needing to go outside.
Such worlds in the United States have mostly been replaced by malls with their broad spaces, bright lights, and canned music.
As a result, tourists often fall in love with this world and with the art of bargaining, trying to guess how much a deal they can get. It is a challenge and a delight.
Decades ago the artisans would come down from Cuzco on market days, Tuesdays and Saturdays if I remember correctly. The other days of the week they would sell in Cuzco where they lived.
Pisco was known for its artisanal workshops that made hand-painted ceramic beads in different designs and colors. Their work was exported around the world when it was bought by international merchants in bulk. Soon it found its way into almost every country and every city.
At the time merchants flooded into Cuzco to look for handicrafts for international markets, and tourists would search the stands in crannies off the main streets, as well as buy from wandering street vendors.
Now many of the handicrafts are made in large workshops, often in Lima while, in all honesty, some are even made in China, still they draw tourists with their constantly changing designs while they claim tradition and the soul of a people. Artisans compete with workshops and industrial producers to share their wares in this world of design and color.
Though Cuzco has seen new markets develop, even large ones such as those by the Paccha, where the two rivers come together in a fountain by the Eco Lodge, still Pisac claims much of the tourist market. It has become a necessary stop. Artisans have opened permanent stands in which a lot of money has been invested, and the town has changed.
Tour buses line up daily to drop off their passengers for their exploration of this country of shifting beauties, and white canvas now owns the top of town.