With friends, early morning

With friends, early morning

The bakery where we bought our pan de sal

The bakery where we bought our pan de sal

Chess

The stage

The stage

The center of the agora

The center of the agora

Her husband repaired two pairs of torn pants in 30 minutes, for $2.25.

Her husband repaired two pairs of torn pants in 30 minutes, for $2.25.

Plastic goods

Plastic goods

Tools2

Tools for kitchen and farm

Tools for kitchen and farm

Dried fish

Dried fish

Fish Bananas

Mangos!!

Mangos!!

Ginger and cincamas, lower right; purple banana flowers center

Ginger and cincamas, lower right; purple banana flowers center

Red tomatoes and green chayote

Red tomatoes and green chayote

            La Carlota is a small city in Negros Occidental, a province on the island of Negros in the central Visayan Islands.   It is home to Central Azucarera de La Carlota, the huge sugar mill that I described last year: https://orionblair.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/sugar-central-on-march-24-2013/

A wonderful covered market, both dry and wet, stands at the center of La Carlota. The dry market sells clothing, plastic ware, shoes, hardware, you name it – and it also offers services like tailoring and shoe repair.   The vendors rent stalls which they close up at night.

The wet market displays a colorful array of fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, rice, and much more. Each has its own section. The meat and fish vendors sell from tiled counters in a high roofed hall, and to the side are the stalls of fruit and vegetables, spilling out onto the sidewalk under canopies. Everything looks very fresh, some items are very exotic (particularly the parts of the animals that we don’t even see, much less eat, in the US), and the vendors keep an eagle eye out for potential customers. If you’re a regular, you’ll have a “suki”, a vendor from whom you always buy and who will give you a discount.

The La Carlota market is more than a place where people buy and sell. It is also a gathering place. The sign, “Agora Recreational Area”, at the edge of an open space in the middle of the market, is telling. The agora or market in Greece was a place where people gathered. The civic, artistic and spiritual life of Athens centered around its famous Agora. La Carlota’s is more humble. It has chessboards painted onto cement tables and a small stage. It contains many “carinderia” or diners, cafes selling brewed coffee and bakeries offering “pan de sal”, the small roll so beloved here.

As we sat at one of these cafes enjoying coffee and pan de sal, we struck up a conversation with an older gentleman selling tickets for the Small Town Lottery. His young companion collects rent every day from the market stalls. An Indian money lender came by to chat. And all around us people were hanging out, eating, drinking, talking.

I thought of the places in Peterborough where people gather for breakfast with their friends, or the MacDonalds and Dunkin Donuts where my Mamaroneck, NY relatives go to meet other seniors.   What I so enjoy about La Carlota’s market is that the relating goes on next to all the buying and selling, the to and fro of people coming through on various errands.   I saw only one person with a laptop or iPad: Lina, taking pictures of the people she was talking with. There’s no wi-fi in this market, and even if there were, I’d like to think that people would continue to relate to each other rather than to their telephone.

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