Unmasked: costume capers stir New York's Times Square

The 32-year-old Peruvian is one of dozens of men and women, mostly from Latin America, trying to eke out a living as costumed characters inside New York's beating heart. Dressed as Sesame Street fuzzballs Elmo and Cookie Monster and superheroes like Batman and Hulk, they pose for photos with tourists in exchange for tips, vying with topless women in body paint and a semi-naked guitar-playing cowboy. For many visitors, the mascots are part of the frenetic entertainment district's charm but to some New Yorkers they symbolize a crowded neon nightmare that is best avoided.