The Adventure of Flea Markets and the Baratillo

Where would you find a radiator from a ’68 Ford next to computer hard drives next to children’s toys? A lovely display of shoes, new in the boxes is next to a rather motley set of used board games. All of these things are available at the local flea market.

A flea market does not sell fleas, but sells things that are ‘flea bitten’ or things that are used. However, some of the items are imported in bulk, or purchased from wholesalers. In Utah, these markets are thriving, set up in parks and parking lots during the summer months and inside of empty spaces during the harsher wetter winters.

It is a place where people bring things that they no longer need, or perhaps they have salvaged, or even have purchased at an extraordinary low price to sell. Often they are spread out on blankets on the ground or floor

Local lea market
Local lea market

In Cusco, the Baratillo (the Deal) is held on Saturday. Prolongación Pera street, along Ejercito Ave and near the Santiago Bridge is closed and ‘shops’ are set up with a cloth or table and often a bright blue covering overhead. It is free to attend, and many people come to market their wares.

The Baratillo has a place for everything. There are used clothes, small appliances, and parts. According to one website, it is “hard to believe that that there aren’t enough words in the dictionary to name everything you can find for sale here. Shirts, pants, boots, brassieres(first second and may third hand) kitchen utensils, gas tanks, tires boards, radios, empty bottles old vinyl, stereos, cell phones, chargers, toys, dolls, antiques, hand-woven carpets, wallets, ponchos, musical instruments, camping shirts, pants, boots, brassieres (first, second and maybe third use), kitchen utensils, gas tanks, tires, boards, radios, empty bottles, old vinyl, stereo equipment, cell phones, chargers, toys, dolls, antiques, hand-woven carpets, wallets, ponchos, musical instruments, camping supplies… electrical circuits, electronic circuits, burned wires, skates, fruit ices, bicycles, beds, TVs and dogs. Then follows a list of other things too numerous to mention, useless in the eyse of many, but perfectly useful to a few. There is something for everyone.”

Baratillo Saturday Market
Baratillo Saturday Market

There are other adventures for those who wish to do more than look. For those who wish to embark on adventures of the palate, there are so many offerings. “Visitors can try quail eggs, manjar stuffed churros, chicha, both purple and white, pork rinds and ceviche.

It has garnered a bit of a ‘reputation’ among foreigners. Some guide books call it ‘smugglers market’ and even suggest that if you have had things stolen during the week, you should go to the market on Saturday to try to find them. This is not an uncommon reputation for markets that sell second hand goods, no matter where you are in the world.

These markets are important to the economy of the areas in which they serve. There are people who depend on them for their livelihood, both in Utah and in Cusco. They are also wonderful places for shopping for merchandise, whether you are buying or just wish to have a bit of local flavor.

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