May 3, 2009

El Mercado Negro

On Friday, O and I went to a place called "Polvos Azules" (Blue Dust). It is knock-off heaven. There are copies of almost everything you can think of, as well as originals, from sunglasses to tennis shoes to music and videos to Waterford crystal. Some of the copies are licensed, but most of them are not. Every year the police go through and seize illegal copies of dvds and cds, and almost immediately after, they start up again.

In Polvos Azules, you can find some very good deals, but you also have to be careful. Buying illegal copies is illegal even here in Peru, and often the copies are of poor quality. You could buy a pair of tennis shoes, thinking they are original Nikes, only to find out after you get them home that they are cheap imitations. After they fall apart the first time you wear them. Professionally done logo, but substandard workmanship.

The black market is very big here, too. Usually the stuff on the black market is stolen. When our car was broken into, we lost three headrests. O went down to the black market (yep, it even has a building where everyone knows they sell black market items!) to see if he could find them. They didn't have them, but offered to "acquire" what we needed by the following day. The strangest thing for me is that while it is illegal to sell anything on the black market, the building is well known and even patrolled by Peruvian National Police.

A quote from "Professional Travel Guide",

"Completely overlooked by the higher-ups, Polvos Azules is Lima's largest, thriving black market. Almost all goods, such as DVDs, CDs, video games, electronics, clothes, shoes and luggage, are pirated or cheap knock-offs. The place is a maze, and you can visit 10 times before seeing everything. Daily 9 am-8 pm. Ave. Paseo de la Republica (2 blocks from Plaza Grau, downtown), Lima."

So weird. I've always heard of the black market, but never thought to find it so conspicuous and well-used by the average citizen. When I think of "the black market", it always conjures up thoughts of clandestine meetings to pass banned firearms and stolen cars, usually between hardened criminals. This place is three stories with a parking garage in the basement, restaurants on the rooftop, and an ATM conveniently located in the middle of the first floor, owned by one of the foremost banks in Peru, Interbank.

I almost said, "Only in Peru," but I suspect this might be more common throughout Latin America than I care to imagine.


Pondside said...

It sounds like the kind of place in which you'd have to be very careful about you buy - and sometimes very careful about just being there, if the police patrol. I had a look at the Peruvian police and wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of them!

Tina - omme i London aka teeweewonders said...

Sounds like at great place, if you ask me. Though, I guess it pays to be careful!

knittingdragonflies said...

How interesting! I would love to live your life for a couple of weeks. Thanks for sharing with us.