Perceptions of street vendors

As a tourist, one of the things you always keep in mind is buying souvenirs for your loved ones. I am not an exception to that.

While at one of the tourist attractions, El Cristo Blanco, I couldn’t resist to take a look at some of the merchandise found at the site. A group of street vendors were sitting next to the site, offering their beautifully crafted souvenirs to the tourists. I settled for one of the vendors, an old but friendly lady.

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This wasn’t the first time I have seen vendors of this nature taking to the streets to sell their merchandise. Since our arrival at Cusco, I have noticed a great number of vendors casually sitting on the street, selling their products to hungry tourists; a sight that is equally beautiful and depressing.

I was curious to know where the merchandise originated. I asked the lady, and her response was quite surprising to me. As it turns out, most the merchandise sold by these street vendors is made by the vendors themselves. This includes bracelets, wooden flutes, and knitted goods, among many others.

However, I noticed that among these items, you can also find very detailed replicas of statues that represent the culture and religion of Cusco. I asked the lady if she or her family had sculptured these items, but her answer was no.

It so happens that these replicas are factory made, and the vendors buy them to resell them. The lady added that most of these factories are owned by either family members or friends of the family, rather than a multi-national corporation.

Learning the source of these items made me feel more at ease with the idea of buying souvenirs from street vendors—and being a tourist.

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