Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bogotá's Traditional Markets Under Threat?

Vendors in Paloquemao, Bogotá's second-largest fruit market. 
One of the most charming, interesting and refreshing aspects of Bogotá are its traditional markets, which sell fruit, flowers and lots of other stuff.

However, throughout Latin America, supermarkets have grown in market share - often at the expense of traditional markets and family-owned neighborhood groceries. Even campesinos lose out, because they can't provide the uniform characteristics and large volumes of fruit which supermarkets demand.

Preparing fish in Paloquemao. 
Besides fresh fruit, veggies, meats and other stuff, traditional markets provide a humanness which supermarkets never do. And your money's staying local, instead of being wired off to a corporate headquarters, probably in another country.

A shopping comlpex is being completed alongside Paloquemao. 
Supermarkets are spreading in Bogotá, as well. A shopping complex, which I'm told will include a supermarket, is near completion alongside the Paloquemao market. Some at Paloquemao are confident that the complex, which will include a movie theatre, will attract more people to the area and to the market. But I wonder whether many people's prejudice in favor of products which are uniform, prepackaged and labeled with a brand name, will draw the traditional market's customers away to the supermarket.

With rising obesity rates, a decline of traditional markets also threatens Bogotanos' health. Here's an article about a U.S. city promoting farmers' markets to encourage people to eat fruits and vegetables. It would be a real pity if Bogotá let this valuable resource be pushed aside by 'progress.'

Vendors at the Mercado Las Nieves, also known as Mercado La Macarena. 
Las Nieves Market, formally known as Mercado La Macarena, is hidden between Calles 19 and 20 and Carreras 8 and 9. With about a dozen fruit, fish and meat vendors, it's much smaller than Paloquemao, but has a good variety of products and friendly people. However, there's also a new supermarket in the works on the empty lot right across 19th St. Will this market fall victim to the advertising-driven preference for prepackaged products sold in sanitized spaces?

Fruit and herbs on sale in Las Nieves. 

A supermarket and other stores are slated for this lot on 19th St. and 7th Ave.  
La Concordia Market in the La Candelaria neighborhood, established in 1933, was once a thriving market and distribution center comparable to Paloquemao, one long-time resident recalls. Today, the Concordia market's 80 year-old building is decrepit and most of its stalls are empty, except for Sundays, when campesinos bring their products to sell.

La Concordia market's empty tables. 
La Concordia Market on a Sunday, when campesinos bring their products.
Fresh fruit in La Concordia. 
Martha, and her father Jose Libero, have run shops in La Concordia market since 1939,  only six years after the market opened. 

Above La Candelaria, the poor Egipto neighborhood's market, formally called el Mercado de Rumichaca, retains a touch of the rural - particularly on Sundays, when campesinos in ruanas crowd in with their ducks and chickens. But on weekdays, the market has only about a half dozen occupied vending spots. Over the years, this market has occupied three different locations. The city is widening La Circunvalar Ave., which runs past the market, and when the work is finally finished the increased lanes and traffic will make the market much more difficult and dangerous to get to for La Candelaria residents. 

Egipto Market 
European tourists taste fruits in Egipto - a scene you won't find in Carrefour. 

Rosa has sold tomatoes, potatoes and onions in the Egipto market for decades. 
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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