Saturday is market day in Antigua, Guatemala. While the marketplace, or mercado, is open all week the number of vendors—selling their crops, livestock or wares—increases one day a week. Most markets in Latin America have a day that is the best to go to market; Antigua is no different.
On my last day in town I found myself returning to the market. Not only did I revisit the mercado de artisanias section looking for more textile or hand crafts items I left the gringo horde behind (which has nothing to do with the golden horde) and wandered the ‘locals’ market. Blue or black tarps tied at the corners with nylon cord provided temporary shade to the merchants and their wares. The only problem was the height of these temporary ceilings was about five feet forcing me to constantly duck down to avoid entanglement. Hidden under these temporary wrappers were beans, breads, vegetables, fruits, and flowers arranged in buckets, bags or baskets in orderly rows or piles. Often times in the middle of the display a small women, well weathered and aged by the life of a farmer,and in colorful traditional dress would be resting with eyes closed awaiting her next customer.
I took my time walking through the aisles absorbing the wealth of food and flower options. Many fruits I did not know but only recognized and perhaps had sampled somewhere in my travels. The vegetables were more familiar to me while many of the flowers were also a mystery. Being over six feet tall I certainly stood out as one of the few gringos meandering through the aisles. After familiarizing myself I retraced my steps taking pictures, saying hello and asked what certain fruits were named. I also bought a large bunch of flower for my familia temporal as a gesture of thanks for my brief stay. Staying with Hohanna and Juan Carlos was a nice alternative to a hostel with an ever changing cast of residents or the anonymous existence of most hotels. The flower lady was happy for the business and even added an extra bundle to my order.
The mercado in any foreign country is certainly a great place to shop for local items and, if you can find a spot out of the way, observe the culture. Often times you might find that you are the only gringo/gringa in the crowd. Just watch out for low hanging tarps!
Get out and explore the World!