Going to the open air market in Gautemala is never disappointing. The large and sprawling local mercado in Antigua is mostly covered, with a confusing warren of small shops that lead to blind alleys, cul-de-sacs and enough narrow passage ways that make you wish you’d brought a sack of bread crumbs to leave a trail. The open air stalls are colorful, with baskets of fruit and vegetables or piles of kitchen items. There are no set prices and the only liquor store is closed on Sunday(for safety reasons)as is the knife and machete store. A thoughtful shopper would go on Saturday. You never know what or who you’ll find in the cramped walkways: the aroma of grilled meat contends with the scent of flowers from the adjoining stalls.
The brightly colored/painted so-called ‘˜chicken buses’ pull into the adjoining dusty parking lot, disgorge their passengers and then lurch up to the departure point for the next crowd. They’re called ‘˜chicken buses’ because in the more remote areas of the country, sometimes fowl and small animals are passengers, albeit unwilling and with only a one-way ticket. Usually the racks on the top of the buses are filled with merchandise, haphazardly tied down, ranging from sacks of potatoes to stacks of tires.
The crowds are friendly and the bargaining is intense. The video stalls blare the latest pirated Hollywood action movies, the more gore the better. Diminutive and attractive Mayan women in their native huipiles and hand-woven blouses wander the aisles, carrying their purchases carefully balanced on their heads. Their children, wide-eyed and agog at the many sights, sounds and smells of the market place tag along beside them. If they’re good, perhaps a small sweet for the ride home.
The chicken won’t be going with them.