Cusco’s Colorful Casccaparo Market (Hebert Huamani Jara)
Without doubt, one of the most picturesque places in Cusco is the Casccaparo Market. A great variety of foods come to this center for abasto, as we call it, provisioning. You will find meat, fruit, vegetables, grains, flours, and more. All the food produced in our region arrive here in tehir freshest state in order to nourish the ordinary people of our city.
One block away from the San Pedro Market, this one is different. It’s prices are lower since it is primarily a wholesale market. The majority of the people who come here are from rural areas near the city of Cusco. Here housewives and vendors who bring the products for sale negotiate directly. You do not have to wait in long lines here, nor to you stand waiting for your receipt to print as in our supermarkets.
The Casccaparo Market is located between the Buen Dia and Casccaparo Chico Streets. From very early in the morning, these streets take on life. When the sun begins to warm the mornings, the ambulatory sellers also arrive bringing color and warmth to these arteries.
Beginning at 5:30 am bread that has just come out of the oven begins to arrive. The bread vendors use baskets made from cane and locate themselves in the six doors of the market to offer fresh bread. In the same way, the breakfast, fruit, and vegetable vendors also locate their wheelbarrows and carts or they lay out plastic on the sidewalks to offer their products to passersby.
The Caccaparo Market itself opens its doors at 6:00 am. The traffic that fills the different sections of the market is fascinating to see. It has 600 workers, both male and female, that are registered with the market. All of the vendors are distributed in sections. On Mondays and weekdays they wear aprons and caps that are green while on Saturdays and Sunday’s they wear white aprons and caps.
When you enter this market you go into a festival of colors. Our caseras, vendors, in their costumes attend a colorful multitude of people who move from section to section. It is a sensation that is repeated every day. Inside the market you also find ambulatory vendors who walk down the aisles offering their teas and sweets to the workers and customers.
The music you hear generally comes from some radio and is a popular song form, huayno, cumbia, or chicha. It is very different from the sounds that come from the formal speakers. They are a different music, one that attracts clients to the low prices that come from the mouths of the vendors.
You can find in this market all kinds of delicious foods. There are crops that were harvested just a day or so before.
I went into the market and roamed around. As I walked through the prepared food sections I could hear the names different dishes being offered. “There is charo, casero”. “I have lamb soup.” “Take a seat, casero.”
With all the temptations hitting my senses, I found myself wanting to eat a laws de maiz. I went up to the casera and asked for a bowl of it. It was delicious, creamy and hot. While I ate, I asked the casera when the market’s anniversary was celebrated. With a voice filled with wisdom she told me that on May 26th the market will be 46 years old. For that day it is all decorated and the market workers celebrate St. Martin of Porras, by sitting all night with his image and lighting him candles. He is the patron saint of the market and for that day he is covered in decorations and gifts.
This great place, where every day vendors and clients from throughout the region come, closes its doors at 6:30 PM. After all the doors of the Casccaparo Market are closed you can still find street sellers there till around 8 PM. They occupy the streets that run parallel to the Market. Pedestrians and housewives have until that time to buy whatever they might need that they were unable to buy earlier. You will also find visitors and local people who are walking through stopping there to by their provisions.