It’s 6:00 in the morning when we step out of the bus and crowd onto a sidewalk near Bazurto. Our class has been studying the Bazurto market for three months and everyone is excited to finally see the market. The students from the Universidad Tecnologica de Bolivar, with whom we are collaborating, meet us at one of Bazurto’s entrances. They are well accustomed to the market and find our excitement amusing. However, as I look around, it is hard to mask my curiosity. I am surprised that the sun has not completely risen yet the market is already crowded and busy. After all twenty five students and professors arrive at the entrance we exchange greetings and begin our two-week journey into Bazurto.
Since we are such a large group, I am immediately conscious of us making a big scene, but this fear is quickly dispelled. Vendors stare and nudge each other as they see us walk by, but for the most part, people are too busy to pay us any attention. Bazurto is a machine and everyone has a role to play in its functioning. Vendors, pushing wheelbarrows filled with fruits vegetables, navigate around us. Women call out ‘Permiso! Permiso!’ as they balance baskets of goods on their head and weave in and out of the crowd. As I walk, I am careful not to bump into anyone or trip over the uneven ground. We pass by piles of watermelons stacked eight feet high, trucks overloaded with plantains and a large group of men selling fish. Above their stands, over a dozen hungry pelicans wait in vain to swoop down and steal a prize.
As it approaches 7:00, many vendors are already situated in their stalls and are awaiting their first customer. My eyes dart from stall to stall. I had not imagined that the market would look like this. Most of the stalls have plastic or tin roofs that are supported by patched-up wooden structures. Almost all the stalls have a tendency to lean to one side. A UTB student points to a giant heap of trash and explains to me that unsanitary conditions plague Bazurto.
In this moment, I realize that understanding Bazurto is going to be a bigger project than I thought. What I don’t realize, is that in only one week my classmates will become well versed in several of Bazurto’s commodity chains, and after conducting ten interviews that I will develop a personal connection to the market of Bazurto.
Photo by Lina Garcia.