XXIX International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, October 6-9, 2010

Panel: El Qosqo: On Becoming Cosmopolitan

Paper: Continuing Cosmopolitanism: Career Aspirations among Child Vendors in Cusco, Peru

In the streets of Cusco, child vendors offer postcards, finger-puppets, and other souvenirs to tourists. Despite encouragement from adults to make use of manual vocational training, child vendors continue to have career aspirations within the tourism industry. To become a tour guide, or even to continue vending, is to have more consistent access to foreigners. Working with tourists affords diverse benefits, not always conceptualized in terms of economic wealth. Child vendors appreciate conversing with tourists for the opportunity to practice their English, to learn about other countries, and to occasionally make longer lasting relationships that provide them with peer status, and emotional as well as economic support. While becoming a tour guide can be seen as a step up to a legal and sanctioned career, being a vendor allows for more fluid and personalized, and less structured, types of interactions. However, while both local citizens and government officials consider tourism a development beacon for economic prosperity and stability, Cusco’s child vendors are also apprehensive about the industry’s continued viability in today’s uncertain global economic climate. This paper explores the career aspirations of Cusco’s child vendors, focusing on how they understand their diverse—yet often still limited—opportunities to be connected to the larger world through tourists. Their discourses about the future therefore engage with the ambiguities of tourism as an access point for present and future ways of being cosmopolitan and worldly.

Aviva Sinervo