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Bolivian Markets

Bolivian Markets

Bolivian Markets

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In March 2010 I went to Bolivia. The streetside markets everywhere are what I remember most vividly. I’ve included this photo gallery as a sample of the things you can see at every twist and turn in every city in Bolivia. People bring in all their goods every morning, set up shop on a sidewalk somewhere, stay all day into the night before taking things down and carting them off, only to do it all over again the next day.

Despite the modern buildings in the cities, about half the street sellers or more still dress in traditional clothing and sell things outside as they have for centuries. On the streets of La Paz you can see everything under the sun for sale, from traditional herbs, fresh cut flowers, fruits, vegetables, fresh cheeses, meat stuck on hooks, and freshly filleted fish next to tables with new cellphones, stands of pirated DVDs, and modern electronics. Carts with hand grinders attached loaded down with stacks of cinnamon twigs and seeds ]are wheeled through the narrow passageways. Vendors sit, chew coca leaves pulled from deep pockets, eat soup, and wait for customers, but there is hardly any calling out or aggressive sales tactics or any effort spent to rustle up business. I don’t know how some of the vendors survive. It doens’t seem possible that there are buyers for everything that is for sale. Or even a quarter of it.

When it rains, as it does at least once a day, the women quickly pull out plastic bags to wrap around their tiny bowler hats perched on top of their thick braids and maybe pull a plastic tarp heartedly over their goods for sale. But that’s all they do. They don’t pull out raincoats to protect the rest of themselves or seek shelter or pack up and go home.

Every street downtown has a chaotic feeling, a frenzy bustling. There is hardly any place to walk or drive through the stands set up on the streetsides, spilling out into the streets. You have to keep a sharp eye not to step on things for sale or people’s feet, and to avoid getting hit by cars pushing past. As cars and mini vans drive by the drivers lean on their horns as if that is the only way to propel the vehicle forward. Your ears ring for a long time after being inside, in a quiet place again. It’s crazy in La Paz, but fascinating and oddly compelling.

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