Monday, July 29, 2013

Erasing a Local Landmark?

Entrance to the Mercado de Egipto. 

The Egipto neighborhood's traditional market has operated for about as long as anybody can remember. It provides fresh, healthful fruits and vegetables, jobs for locals, income for campesinos and location for community events (such as this Sunday's mass for the Virgen del Carmen).

A woman who has sold in the market for about
40 years, as her mother did before her.
'I'm too old to move, she said.)
But water authorities plan to close the historic market, ending a neighborhood institution, with little public consultation or concern for those affected.

According to what I've heard second and third hand, Bogotá acueducto officials - the people who manage the city's water supply - are concerned about the stability of the market, which is built above the San Agustin River. Supposedly, the river is weakening the market's foundation. The officials' solution is to shut the market and send the vendors somewhere else.

On Sundays the market becomes more active, and
campesinos come from the countryside to sell chickens
and other things. 
But the people who sell in the Egipto Market are very modest people who live nearby and do not want to pay bus fare to sell in an unfamiliar place far from home. And the alternative market I've most heard mentioned - Mercado La Concordia in La Candelaria, has barely enough customers to support the sole fruit vendor there now. Egipto's vendors would starve there.

Egipto's vendors wonder what possible danger there can be, since the market is set on soil and the
river flows under its edge, apparently inside a pipeline (the huge amount of vegetation makes it impossible to see). If soil under the market were to shift, it seems to me that it would happen slowly, giving plenty of time to evacuate or take countermeasures.

A cheese vendor.
What strikes me most about this situation is the way the city seems willing to destroy a local landmark, a piece of local tradition and culture, without a second thot - even while foreign chain stores hawking junk food sprout like mushrooms across Bogotá - most likely tax breaks and subsidies meant to encourage foreign investment.

"I'm too old to move," a 56-year-old vegetable vendor, who has worked in the market since she was fourteen, as did her mother before her.

But city authorities don't seem very concerned.

The San Agustin River's overgrown ravine behind the Mercado de Egipto. Note the probably illegally homes on the ravine's edge. 

Years ago, the market was located on the corner in front of the church. The market was located due to road work. Today, perhaps it could move back. 

Thumbs up. 
A poster nearby headlines the market's original name, El Mercado de Rumichaca. 

Cheese for sale.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


amanda said...

rumichaca means stone bridge in quechua! quechua names making it all the way up to bogotá!

Miguel said...

Thanks Amanda. a really interesting point, altho it is good to be cautious concerning entymology. One theory about the origin of the name Cundinamarca is that it came from Quechua (apparently via the conquistadores, since the Inca Empire never reached here).


Andy Klatt said...

Etymology, too.

Miguel said...

Thanks for that Andy.