I love handmade and love markets. So when we decided to visit Peru over Christmas break, I knew we absolutely had to visit the Santurantikuy Christmas Market in Cusco (Santurantikuy is a Quechua word, meaning “the selling of the saints”). We planned our trip accordingly.
Before we left for Lake Titicaca, we noticed booth markings all around Plaza de Armas. We checked them out, and I was super excited to realize there will be close to ONE THOUSAND booths!
We made sure to come back from the Lake just in time for the market on Christmas Eve (this market has been a Cusco tradition for over 500 years, ever since the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century). I expected something like Otavalo Market in Ecuador. The reality, however, surpassed all expectations!
Traditionally, the market drew vendors from the villages around the capital and from the Sacred Valley. Now, however, it draws artisans from all over Peru. One of the merchants we talked to said he traveled by bus for over 30 hours to get there!
When we approached the Plaza, the first thing we noticed were all the villagers on the side streets, many with large packs:
When we reached the square, it was crowded with locals, Peruvians from the countryside, and some tourists. There was a large police presence to keep the order.
Plaza de Armas was packed full of booths and people.
There were booths for every conceivable craft. Lots of unique, interesting things. Lots of handmade work. Textiles! A few booths had truly remarkable works of art. I was so excited I didn’t know what to look at first!
There was also a lot of food, of course.
They say that pictures speak more than a thousand words. For a change, I will talk less and let you see what I mean for yourselves. This will be a mostly picture-lead post 🙂
I’ve seen many Christmas markets around the world, but this one had more Christian-themed works than any of them. Traditionally, this market offered ONLY Christmas-related items (hence its name), but this has changed in recent years.
There was an entire area for grasses and moss, meant to decorate nativity scenes, which every house in Peru has:
There were lots of options for the actual Nativity figures:
(I thought the combination here was funny!):
There were also lots of angels:
Lots of candles:
And some crucifixions:
As Expected, There were Some Tourist Souvenir Booths:
Lots of Different Kinds of Toys:
And a Handful of Truly Amazing Work!
I loved everything I saw: the diversity, the ingenuity, the liveliness of it all. But a handful of things really stood out. I found the following truly exceptional:
A life-size jaguar, carved from one piece of wood.
Wooden flying horses that could move with gears.
And two booths with trolls. The first had small trolls, and an interesting-looking doll.
The second booth had truly-wonderful, large trolls. Each was nicer than the other. They were quite expensive, even for tourists, yet sold like hot cakes.
Many Peruvians bought them, and took them on a stroll in the market. We even saw one guy buying slippers for his troll!
We couldn’t resist them, either. My kids ended up adopting those two:
They later gave us a lot of trouble with airport security, but eventually made it home safe and sound.