El Molino lies alongside a foul-smelling river about a 10 minute taxi ride from the Plaza de Armas. I'm told that much of the merchandise is brought in duty-free from Peru's southern-most port town of Tacna. The market itself is a collection of hundreds of small stalls with corrugated tin roofing that are jam-packed with merchandise. Look down one aisle and you'll see books, bicycles and bootleg CD's. Look down another and you'll see perfume, pinatas and pirated DVD's. Glance to the side and you'll see clothing, cameras and costume jewelry. Turn around and you'll spot hard liquor, housewares and HDTV's.
Obviously, all the DVD's are pirated; how else could you charge only 3 soles ($1) for a brand new DVD movie that just hit the theaters 3 weeks ago. With every movie title on the market available for just a dollar, who needs a movie theater?
This smorgasbord of cheap digital media does have its risks, however. As El Molino veterans, we have learned from experience what to look for when purchasing DVD's. The first thing to look for is: Does the disc have English-language audio and subtitles? Wheny we bought Steven Soderbergh's 2-disc "Che" (Guevarra) biopic and we previewed the first disc to verify that it had English-language subtitles. After enjoying the first disc about Che's role in the Cuban revolution we popped in the second disc to find that it did not have English-language subtitles. The second thing to look for mainly applies to new releases: Is it a disc-to-disc copy or was it filmed in the back row of a movie theater? Pirated versions of new releases get out quickly because someone sits in a movie theater with a digital movie camera and films it. Our kids watched "Ice Age 3" a while back and a baby started crying in the middle of the DVD soundtrack. When we bought "Transformers 2," the excitement of seeing this new release outweighed our concerns about the video and audio quality. We got home and watched about 10 minutes of it before we gave up. The action scenes were impossible to watch and understand. The third thing to look for applies to TV series: Are all the discs present? My daughter has bought four seasons of "The Office" and on two occasions, we found episodes missing.
Even with these risks, the economics of pirated DVD's means that it will be a while before we see a multiplex adorning Cusco's Plaza de Armas.
Posted by Jason at 11:40 AM