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Latin America Kavitha Dispatch

Two Vegetarians in a Meat Market
 
Vegetable Market
Caption
My favorite place to visit when I first come to a new town is the vegetable market. All the colors, the sounds, the smells...there's so much to attract your attention. The market in San Cristobal was no let-down. Every day hundreds of men and women from neighboring villages cart in their goods to market and set up their stands first thing in the morning. As you walk through the crowded, narrow maze of paths between the stands, you can find anything from pineapples, freshly made tortillas and tamales, avocados, nuts and seeds, to papayas, roasted corn on the cob, all kinds of vegetables and herbs, fresh squeezed juices...it's endless! The more time you spend in the market, the more you discover, and the better the bargain you can drive. Unfortunately, locals expect 'gringos' (Americans) to have more money than they often do, so they generally quote a much higher price to Americans. Once you get familiar with a market, and get a sense of how much things should cost, you can easily bargain down to a reasonable price...and it's actually a lot of fun trying to strike a fair deal.

Yesterday, I wanted to take Shawn to the market to try a mamey, a delicious fruit I had been introduced to by a vendor, but we quickly got lost among the rows of stalls and never tracked down the right vendor. Instead, we stumbled on something most unfamiliar.

Chicken Parts
Caption
As we started walking down a new aisle, we heard a shrieking squeal and smelled an awful, damp odor. This was clearly not the luxurious smell of tropical fruit. Your favorite vegetarian world trekkers had walked into San Cristobal's meat market! And unlike buying skinless, boneless chicken breasts in clean, sanitary styrofoam containers, buying meat in most developing countries is a much different reality. Here, live chickens, turkeys, and pigs waited with their feet tied, as customers selected their choice...not unlike the large tanks of lobsters that you can choose from when you eat at a seafood restaurant. Many people cannot afford to buy meat regularly, so for them buying an animal is saved for special occasions; on these occasions, the whole animal is shared at a feast with family and friends. The market vendors allow you to take it home live, or they will kill it for you. Further down the aisle, they sold ready cut meat...everything from steaks, to giblets, to claws.

For the Road
Caption
At first, I was disgusted by the smell and the sound of the animals being killed. But after a few minutes, I realized that this was almost more humane than the way meat is sold in the U.S. People here know where their food is coming from, and buyers have a real appreciation for the life that is lost. Also, if an animal does have to be killed, it makes sense to use all of its parts and not to waste any, especially when so many people go hungry.

Tacos
Caption
Shawn and I wandered through many aisles of chickens and meat before we were connected with the familiar fruit and vegetable stands. By the time we finally made our way out of the market, it was lunchtime and we were starving! We went into a little café and ordered a big plate of tacos...vegetarian soy tacos of course!


 
 
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