The witches’ market

I wouldn’t say that crossing Ecuadorian-Peruvian border was complicated. Actually, I could smuggle everything through it (of course I didn’t have anything illegal with me). As the most of such procedures, it was inconvenient. Firstly, we waited in the bus, then, around 1 a.m., they ordered us to get off for the customs control. A formality. In most cases just a simple question: Ropa? [Clothes?] and the answer: Si, ropa [Yes, clothes]. And symbolic opening of the suitcase. They didn’t dig in my backpack either. I had to wait for over an hour, though (as you could guess, my luggage was the last one).

Then a long queue to the passport control. The Ecuadorian one, for exit and then the entrance to Peru. They didn’t ask for the form we had filled. Why would they?


That’s how an economy on the translation finishes. Remember, don’t use Google Translate for official forms, it doesn’t work.


I got to Chiclayo in the early afternoon (over 15 hours in the bus, my exactly favourite way to spend the time). First thing to do: find an ATM. Next: accommodation. Later some food, laundry. And a day and a half of my stay in Peru was gone. For the trivialities. But I should visit something, don’t I?

On my way back from the valley called Purgatorio, Purgatory (in the next post), I met a German girl who also travelled the South America. We took a bus to Chiclayo together. She mentioned the witchcraft market she was going to see. I couldn’t miss such an occasion.


Herbs on the witches’ market.
Protection beads.


The air was filled with scent of  incenses and herbes. I recognised some of them – they hung in bunches on every stall. A tinware roof was hanging low, enhancing the smell and limiting the amount of light getting in. Besides the herbes where were colourful wax candles with the words curved in them: luck, love, health, money, protection from the evil. Then, ritual staffs, daggers, red beads screening the bad luck, herbal amulets, purification crystals, tarot cards and little red dolls used for love magic. Somewhere Virgin Mary’s or Jesus Christ’s statuettes wearing native American crowns. Amongst all of it Chinese plastic cats weaving the arms or imported amulets with Chinese characters. The magic is syncretic. And paramedical mixtures. For potency, haemorrhoids, cancer, stomach ache, prostate, fertility, menstrual pain, migraine, hair growth and, actually for almost everything. In cheap cardboard boxes. I’m pretty sure that most of them causes only diarrhoea.

I was a bit deceived. No witches.


The scariest image of Christ I’ve ever seen. Indian crown on the head.
The candles protecting from the evil.
Probably an anaconda. In pieces.


But Mercado Modelo isn’t only about magic – there are clothes, leather, toys and a lot or even mostly food. Still alive and already not. Fish, vegetables, fruits, poultry, chicks, guinea pigs, rabbits. The half of them squeaking, the other half already not. All of them stinking, though. I don’t want to complain but Peru smells worse than Ecuador. And it’s far dirtier, at least judging from what I’ve seen till now.


A fruit stall.
Can it be a bicycle vendor’s vehicle?


We’ve fought our way through the market. We were walking down the street on its side, when a man spoke to me.

‘Where are you from?’, he asked and handed me a bottle of beer. I drank a sip. He poured some into his glass and drank too. It became nice. I like this friendly curiosity, almost childish, that pushes people to ask you about your origin, name, goal, destination and opinion about the country. It’s the same for Peru and Ecuador. You’re a gringo – they’ll ask you those questions. That’s so different from our tolerant and liberal Europe. What’s this tolerance about if a simple question Where are you from? can be considered racist? That’s true, though, that many people ask it for wrong reasons. I’ve been in South America for almost two months now and nothing unpleasant has happend to me because of my ethnicity – even the opposite. I firmly believe that I will be able to say the same thing in two months.


Guinea pigs. The answer to a possible question: no, no one keeps them as pets. They eat them here.


Another group started a conversation. I was talking to those on the left, the German girl – on the right. She spoke, unlike me, fluent Spanish.

‘How to say Carlos in Polish?’


‘And Zorro?’

I didn’t understand. She translated. A fox, it was a fox. Of course. I answered to the one who’d asked.

‘But you are not going to tell me, guys, that one of you’s called Zorro’ the German asked laughing.

‘I am Zorro’ replied one of them rising his hand.


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