Being in the very touristy Cuzco - Machu Picchu region for a couple weeks now I am starting to suffer from artesania overload. Artesania in Spanish means any type of handicraft or art made from wood, leather, wool, cotton, ceramic, stone, metal, paint or other material I am leaving out. Quality varies greatly from cheap t-shirts to hand woven textiles costing hundreds of dollars; trinkets of pure silver to worthless baubles. Of course, these things make excellent souvenirs for visitors to Peru, but there is only so much a person can buy or even just look at.
|A high-end weaving shop|
In Cuzco, there are countless artesania markets, shops and stalls out in the open and hidden in courtyards. There are large markets in Aguas Calientes and Pisaq with smaller ones in other towns. Also, there are people setting up tables at every tourist point of interest along the road and mobile sellers who lay out their goods on a blanket or who hoof it around town hoping to find a buyer in the park or on the sidewalk.
As you can imagine the handicraft and nick knack supply far exceeds demand. The superabundance of inventory being cranked out of factories and homes and put on display for prospective customers is quite overwhelming. I think that there are enough unsold alpaca wool sweaters hanging around Peruvian souvenir shops to keep all of Iceland warm for years. Seeing so many places with floor to ceiling items that are essentially similar to what is being sold by everyone else has me wondering as to how many people can actually eke out a decent living selling this stuff.
|Big Box Store: The largest handicrafts center in Cuzco|
|A pile of stuff|
|My personal favorite: The Conquistadors vs. Incas chess sets|
Condors are mythical; llamas are practical; alpacas are fluffy and tasty (according to my non-vegetarian sources). All three animals hold a special place in Peruvian culture and history and the souvenir makers milk them for all their worth. Not literally, of course (they would if they thought people would buy alpaca dairy products). But these symbolic juggernauts can be found on just about any type of handicraft imaginable.
Don't believe for a moment that a hardened traveler like myself would be immune to the irresistible charms of these critters:
|My leather notebook|
|Condor finger puppet|
|The remnants of traditional market day|
|Traditional tourist handicrafts souvenir market|