Friday is market day in the town of San Francisco El Alto, about an hour away from Xela (Quetzaltenango) by chicken bus. It’s the biggest market in the country, and it’s easy enough to get lost in the rows of stalls that spill onto the town’s streets. They sell practically everything here, from fresh produce to old video games from the 1980s, from used clothing to traditional textiles, and, of course, live farm animals which were far and away the biggest novelty I’ll remember.
Brushing up on our bargaining skills, my friend and I ascertained that 4 medium-sized pigs cost 575 quetzales (~$96 CAD) and a turkey 25 quetzales (~$4.20 CAD). I briefly considered the idea of getting a turkey and bringing it back to the hostel, but thought better of it. I was, however, tempted to buy some fresh fruits and vegetables which were in abundance but not particularly different than in other markets in Guatemala. The variety of dried beans and chillies, and sights of rarer food products like achiote seeds and dried fish did impress, though. The thing with travelling with a backpack and moving around so often is that it can be difficult to buy material things simply because it’s not feasible to transport them while you’re travelling. In fact, I didn’t end up buying anything save for a pound of traditional chocolate sold in thick round disks, perfect for making hot chocolate later that night in a chilly Xela.
It was simply rewarding just passing through the lively streets and seeing locals buying and selling all sorts of stuff, not to mention interacting with vendors who were genuinely surprised to see foreigners in a part of the country where tourism is still largely (and welcomingly to this traveller) absent…
And to end, here’s a short video of the hustle and bustle at the market: