Sunday, January 24, 2010

Farmers Markets, Cuban Style

Since we visited our local farmers market today it got me thinking about the farmers market we happened upon in Havana Vieja. There are a few 'agros' around the city, generally they are in a permanent location and are run daily. There was even one right on the corner by our casa particular, it was very sad looking. But it is only at these agros that vendors can set their own prices, an experiment in capitalism that was started in 1980. Peeking into them whenever we passed by, we would see a few tables with some taro, potatoes and cabbage. Notice I didn't say "piled high". There isn't enough of anything to be piled high.

But this market was different. Set up on the busy Prado in front of the Capitolio there were signs saying this was a special holiday market. And just like here in Ballard there were many street food vendors selling croquettes, pan con lechón, and ice cream.

There was also a long line of old trucks full of unripe bananas, yuca, rice, malanga, cabbage & plantains. A very limited selection to say the least but more than at the agros. Each farmer just sold one thing. Customers lined up and had their vegetables weighed on old fashion scales, paying in pesos and adding things to the plastic bag they had brought with them.

One or two tents had tables set up and are selling pork. This really is a special holiday market as very few Cubans have the opportunity to buy pork. Lines are long, very long. It's the first time I am realizing that the Cuban people stand in line for a lot of things, it is a part of life here.

I'm sure that just like Dayne and I, when we left our farmers market today, people need to run into the grocery store for a few odds and ends. Only here it's quite a different situation as you can see...

This is how every shop looks. And to call these grocery stores is a bit of a reach since there is no produce section, freezer section, etc. There is little variety and little in general. Can you imagine if a Cuban citizen walked into a Costco in the states? Uh, wow!