Whose Paradise? Itinerant Street Vendors’ Individual and Collective Practices of Political Agency in the Tourist Streets of Cusco, Peru


The focus of recent studies on street vending in Latin American cities has made a noteworthy shift from street vendors’ conflicts with local governments to their resistance strategies. These studies explore how street vendors organize themselves against political repression and consider resistance in terms of collective action or organized protest. However, this article challenges this narrow focus on collective resistance strategies by analysing street vendors’ collective and individual strategies for dealing with intensified control and for challenging the measures used by local governments. Drawing on the empirical case of itinerant street vendors in the tourist streets of Cusco, Peru, the article shows that these vendors adopt multiple and fragmented practices of political agency that enable them to make a livelihood in tourism. These less explicit and often more individualized ways of expressing agency are crucial to better understand how itinerant vendors manage to remain in the tourist streets of Cusco. They also explain why some vendors are more powerful than others in challenging repressive policies and benefiting from the global industry that is tourism.