In the Markets
Every Guatemalan market is a treat for all five senses.
No, that’s not right. Modern chain supermercados from Arkansas or Salvador are splendid for shoppers, but shrink-wrapped, boxed or processed foods in glass cases or on neatly organized shelves don’t give much smell, sight or taste, while the piped-in music and packaged goods miss sound and touch pleasures. The sensual treats are in the indigenous markets, indoors and out, throughout the republic.
Sights dazzle the eyes in village markets. Piles of red apples, yellow bananas, green leafy vegetables, shining purple eggplant and soft tan baby potatoes compete with rainbows of blossoms or shades of candles and textiles, especially outdoors under rich blue skies against white walls. Ladies sitting on the paving provide multicolor pleasure from their intricate blouses and skirts, black hair and soft brown complexions. Markets provide colorful photographic evidence of sensual Guatemala.
Scents are intriguing in different market areas, from bags of fresh-dug onions to bulk ground coffee to just-cut roses. A few whiffs may be unpleasant, but steps later come pungent aromas of orange or pineapple juices, hand-tooled leather goods or maybe fresh-sawed wood. There’s always a lunch area, with aroma of grilled meats and refried beans. Out back are the buses from the villages, spewing the familiar diesel stink but often alongside sellers of aromatic incense and medicinal herbs.
Sounds in these markets are far richer than canned supermarket music, blending soft conversations and loud bargaining, “pase adelante” welcomes and blaring loudspeaker cries from T-shirt or DVD vendors. Stores with televisions showing fútbol from the city or distant countries mix cries of sportscasters over goals to spectator cheers or groans. Listen to the audio blend around you.
Tastes might require a purchase of a hand-patted corn tortilla wrapping avocado slices, or a peach smoothie. Sometimes plates of orange sections or banana slices are there to prove their freshness. And remember the lunch areas, with carne asada or buttery fresh eggs scrambled or fried.
Touch requires some care. Long-stemmed roses are usually free of thorns, but some other blossom stems might bite you back. Waxy-smooth candles and rough homemade soap balls give different tactile sensations. Lanolin-rich woolen panchos or thick cotton weavings are a delight to touch.
Each sense can be overwhelmed by a sensuous Guatemalan market, building rich memories of a special country and friendly people. Savor each sensual experience and store all in your memory bank.
REVUE article by Ken Veronda