About a month ago I went to the small market that is installed every Friday and Saturday in the area where I live. The same place where I used to spend between 3 and 4$ for vegetables and fruits (that more or less lasted me about 7/10 days), at that moment I demanded between 7 and 10$ for the same purchase. My budget didn’t cover everything and after some conversations with the people who were queuing to pay with me, I decided that I had to look for other options. I had to go to the Wholesale Coche Market.
The Coche Market is a huge piece of land on the foothills of Coche, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Caracas. It is so big and important that it has its own subway station. There are trucks of producers coming from all over the country; informal stalls of all kinds swarm, from the best made with firm awnings and points of sale machine powered by diesel power plants, to those precariously made up of a pair of tables and a balance of doubtful accuracy.
I already knew the Coche Market. My experience with it was not entirely pleasant in the past, the first time I visited it I saw two young men struggling to death with their knives while the local vendors shouted at them to stop the fight, not because they feared for the lives of those young warriors, but because they did not want their merchandise to be sprinkled with blood.
The second time I went to the market was a little more…extreme. At that time the shortage was greater than today, the CLAP (imported products subsidized and distributed by the government) did not exist, so if you wanted some food with a regulated price, you had to either make a queue, or buy it in the market parallel to some “bachaquero”. In Coche there were many bachaqueros, despite the illegality of their trade, exposed their products without any kind of modesty or concern to reprimand.
When I enter the market, I observe how an important contingent of National Guards (military) begin to enter the market with their weapons drawn and loaded. They were on foot, others in cars, others in vans and a few on foot. They were seen hurried, busy, as if they were chasing someone. As this was my second visit to the market, I assumed that because of the area and protection of visitors, the Guardia used to swarm the market in that attitude and volume. I didn’t give it much importance and continued to search for potatoes, onions, carrots and some fruits.
When I reached the first sales stalls, I saw how the uniforms completely destroyed them, asked about the regulated articles, found them, confiscated and destroyed the rest of the merchandise. In spite of such a complicated scenario, I decided to go ahead with my purchase, this time with a slightly more hasty step; I had come a long way and was not willing to miss my 2 hour trip. Weapons charging and a consequent burst of detonations caused me to change my mind quickly. Those informal vendors had decided not to allow what they considered to be a saleable commodity to be confiscated, so they removed their weapons hidden among the melons, under black bags and their loose clothes, and began to respond with gunshots to the uniformed men’s abuse of power.
That place soon turned into chaos where mothers lost their children in the middle of a terrified crowd wishing to leave by the only escape route. I bent my head and body as well as the characters in those video games that I liked so much, looked around me and saw a poor man in a wheelchair trying to escape. He sold used watches, had them tied to each other along his chair, and his first instinct was to protect them first than himself. I ran out in his direction keeping my head down, helped him untangle the tangle of old clocks, put them in a bag and pushed the old man along with his old clocks and even older chair out of the bullets and screams. Curiously that man only smiled with his eyes wide open, like the one who, after a monotonous and boring life realizes that today he has something somewhat interesting to tell his wife when he gets home. I left him in a workshop where they were repairing cars near the market, and proceeded to flee from there while more uniformed with the same strange smile of the paralyzed old man were going in the opposite direction to mine.
It was the last time I visited the market… until a couple of days ago, I decided to return because of the need for food, and the lack of budget.
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