The San Pedro market in Cusco, Peru is one of those places where your “overload” buzzers start going off the minute you set foot near the entrance. There is so much going on that you can’t begin to take it all in – the colors, smells, sounds, energy – it whirls around you like frogs in a blender… And that’s not just an expression. Frogs were at the far back corner, in a big yucky bucket, but according to our fearless guide Corey, the Frog Lady for some reason did not have her blender with her the day we were there. Thank goodness for small favors.
I would have loved to wander around with my sketchbook and capture some of the unique sights, but I suddenly found myself feeling self-conscious and intrusive, not to mention Tall and Nosy. I tried to subtly take a few photos, but it didn’t feel right. These people where just doing what they do at their market, and with the exception of the little girl whose mom was selling quail’s eggs, none of them wanted to be photographed. The little girl, age three or four, already knew that when the gringo’s come at you with a camera, hold out your hand and smile big for a few soles. It felt like the moral equivalent of a Peruvian trying to photograph me as I shop at Fred Meyer – no thanks, I just want to get what’s on my list and get on with my day.
Much like Freddies, the San Pedro market provides “one stop shopping” – warm Llama wool scarves, chicken feet, bread, fresh flowers, camera cases, frogs, and huge phallic carvings… I did take a few photos in spite of my little fit of shyness, and one was of the amazing barely-real-looking purple corn. As soon as I got back to the hotel, I parked myself on the patio and sketched from the photo, using my newest sketching discovery, a white gel pen. The white gel will cover nearly all colored pencil, ink, or watercolor, allowing me to make highlights at the end of the process instead of being required to reserve the white of the paper from the very start – Wonderful! Plus, the waxy white china marker makes for some interesting “resist” possibilities for watercolors, and it also works as a blender. If I’d had my wits about me, I would have bought some of the corn and tried painting with the juices – given the brilliant color of “chicha morado” the local corn drink, I’ll bet it makes an incredible magenta wash!