Polvos Azules is a giant shopping center in La Victoria, just across several key avenues from downtown Lima.
Polvos Azules is home to more than 2,000 independent vendors who sell everything from clothing to electronics and anything in between. The 2,000 stalls are split between a basement, first floor and second floor.
In the basement are pirated DVDs, luggage, clothing and also technical services where you can bring your cracked smartphone screen to get it replaced on the cheap.
On the first floor you can haggle with the clothing merchants to get the best deal on knockoff brands which are made with the finest materials, or find your favorite soccer team’s counterfeit jersey at a fraction of the retail price.
Also on the first floor are stalls specializing in perfume, liquor, jewelry, children’s toys, electronic goods from cameras to computers, heck you can even place a bet on the big game back home at the BetCRIS agency or do your banking at the Interbank branch which opened recently.
The second floor has a food court where you find traditional Peruvian fare with menu prices starting at 6 soles (<$2).
Copycat markets have opened up around Lima using names like Polvos Rosados in Surco or Polvos Blancos and Polvos Amarillos in downtown Lima.
Veteran tip: Always haggle with the vendors as the initial price quoted is always negotiable.
One of the most popular shopping centers in Lima, Polvos Azules began life two miles away from its current location. In 1981, mayor Eduardo Orrego moved thousands of informal merchants from the tiny streets of downtown Lima to the area behind Plaza de Armas on the Rimac river which has since been converted into the Alameda Chabuca Granda.
The area was known since the 16th century as “Polvos Azules” (blue dust) for the leather artisans who used powdered indigo to dye their hides, thus coating the surrounding streets in blue dust.
Faced with eviction, the merchants organized by forming a commercial union or cartel. With the combined economic power of the merchants they proposed to build a roofed market in the same location between the Piedra and Santa Rosa bridges and construct a $13 million boulevard along the Rimac River.
Instead the association bought the entire fourth block of Paseo de la Republica avenue in the La Victoria district. The construction of the shopping center took years to complete, with merchants setting up shop on the streets around their new site.
In the end, the Polvos Azules shopping center came in at a final cost of $18 million.
How to get there
You can take the Metropolitano and get off at either the National Stadium station or Central Station. Polvos Azules is situated between them on the fourt block of Paseo de La Repulica directly across from the Parque de la Exposicion.
Any taxi driver will know Polvos Azules.
Polvos Azules in the News
Polvos Azules is generally safe, but there are occasionally robberies and assaults as in any giant market in the downtown area of a giant city.
Polvos Azules recently made the news when police raided the mall looking for counterfeit clothing, in which they seized $1 million of clothes!
The article says that, according to the director of the Polvos Azules vendor association, over 90% of businesses in the mall are legal and pay taxes. We don’t believe it’s that high, but if she’s claiming 90% then it must be high. Certainly higher than the majority informal vendors in Gamarra.
Watch a documentary on a pirated DVD producer below.
For high-res slideshow viewing, see the Polvos Azules album on the Lima City of Kings Facebook page.