Market Analysis: A Whirlwind Tour of Xela’s Markets
By Laura Walton
Markets abound in Xela – La Demo, Central, las Flores, Terminal Minerva, just to name a few. Yet somehow, we foreigners keep finding ourselves in the Dispensa and at Paiz, browsing the familiar aisles at our leisure and choosing neatly packaged boxes of imported food. And while even the best of us sometimes get a hankering for whole wheat pasta, dark chocolate and Chilean wine, resisting the urge to partake in Western food shopping is one of the best ways to get in on the real Guatemalan experience.
If you’ve never done the market thing before, get started with a small market like Mercado las Flores, located on Diagonal 12 and marked on your handy XelaWho map, or the central market right behind the Southeast corner of Parque Central. Both of these spots are easy to get to and offer all the basics. It is best to go in the morning, before the afternoon rain drives the street stalls away. Once you’ve picked up a few veggies and a bag of beans, you’re ready to move on the big guys.
La Democracia (affectionately known by locals as “La Demo”) starts on the corner of 16th Avenida and Calle Rodolfo Robles and has a much bigger selection. There you can find everything from used jars to bulk almonds to bolts of local indigenous cloth. Bring a book bag to stock up on dry goods and confidently ask for prices before you buy in order to get the best deals. Currently you should be able to get a pound of strawberries for 5Q, a good sized papaya for 8Q and a head of broccoli, spinach or a huge zucchini for 3Q or less.
Now that you’ve got your feet nice and wet, head on to the market at the bus station Terminal Minerva, preferably on a Saturday to get the full experience. Here’s where you get the most interesting finds – tiny homemade banana breads, tasty corn stews, cutlery, panties and glittery hair bands. Plunge into huge piles of used clothes for finds that will put your local thrift store to shame. Just hop on any bus heading up 14 avenida calling “terminal” or “Minerva.”
With a little work and a little luck, you should be able to kick your grocery store habit and haggle with the best of them in no time.