by Jose Kevo
November 14, 2004
The section on Old Town side is an endless maze of narrow streets and wide plazas congested with vendor boothes lined stall to stall and stocked with mind-boggling amounts of goods. Hardware, housewares, clothing and shoes; tons more than a Wal-Mart Super Center and definitely more enticing.
There was such a compressed abundance, getting turned around and lost was forthright saying the least. Never had I been meshed within such a sea of humanity. Forget personal space or wearing backpack in lieu of clutching it in front. Yet never was there pushing or disrespect of others. Venders were no more aggressive with the only gringo than with locals. Call it amazing how congested pathes could so fluidly part for another cart coming through.
Density prohibited photos more than safety issues, and taller people should definitely pay attention or consider wearing a bicycle helmet! Buried behind street boothes are just as many stores with cheap inventory stacked to the ceilings. Closer to the arteries are where food stands begin appearing; the smells coming off grills second only to the infectious music blasting everywhere.
Across Libertadoris an even larger portion that looses the sidewalk mall-feel and gets strictly down to old world market. Since there seemed to be no beginning or no end, getting drawn into one of the wide dirt streets induced a swallowing into a world unto itself. The only thing more overwhelming than selections was infinite abundance.
Wandering aimlessly uncovered some rather raw forms of commerce not mentioning smells and sanitation which instill natural character. Walking rows and rows of fresh produce stands, open-air meat counters, collections of barrells spilling over with dry goods and spices; the unprepared feast was made further beguiling at numerous counter-top eateries. Potential food bacterias weren't even considered thanks to hordes of hungry and healthy. Snacking and feasting opportunities just as endless.
Only a fool would pay asking price for anything. Thanks to overflowing competition, bartering is part of the process; walking away to the next vendor sign of respected skill. Shopping around for best selections and prices was part of the casual encountering, but finding your way back to specific boothes through the jig-saw market exercised dexterity of obstacle course and scavenger hunt as if looking for needles in a haystack.
The older market area appears open daily from sun-up to sun-down except Sundays when owners start closing around 2:00 pm. Vendors on Old Town side get a later start and vanish by 2:00 pm. Walking abandoned side streets took on new meaning with vacated evidence from thousands of locals swarming hours before. Quaint silence ushers in preconceptions of why you wouldn't want to be exploring here after dark. Plan leaving early with mind, stomach, and hands sated!
From journal Magic Amid the Multitudes in Maracaibo