First Reconnaissance of the Market: “What’s that smell!”

by Daniella Martinez y Henry Kulla

On Tuesday morning we went to the Market of Barranquilla for the first time. We split up into 3 groups, within which each person had a specific task. For example, one person was assessing points of interest, the other was looking out for environmental issues, and another kept an eye out for important or striking actors…. The goal was to try to blend in as well as possible and be somewhat inconspicuous, so we wouldn’t disturb anybody or change their behaviour based on them thinking that they were being inspected. We were however accompanied by police officer, a camera- and film team, and a reporter interviewing us on our way through the streets of the market. This obviously made us pretty noticeable and a lot of eyes were on us. Some street vendors seemed to be angry at us, assuming we were there to plan a clearing of the stalls from the streets.


Many of the Colombian students had never been to the market, the experience was new to them as well. What we were all amazed by, was the lack of hygiene, sanitation, the piles of garbage everywhere and the horrible smell of sewer and rotten food. The canal flowing next to the market, the “Caño de Auyama”, which is mainly used as a rubbish dump, was a foul sight.

Homeless people, stray cats and dogs, and traffic jams were on every corner. However, amidst this untamable urban jungle of street vendors, we did feel the cheeriness and kindliness of the people within, some of them trying to offer us their produce with the few words they knew in English; concerned to give us the nicest fruit they had so we could have the best experience. Piles of the great variety of fresh fruit and vegetables offered a big pop of color, being discovered a love for Granadilla. Some of the ETH students learned a few things about bargaining and we also met very important and influential characters of the market: Toña the pig napping by the entrance was a big surprise.


We all saw the potential of this market to be much more than it is now. A place that people would not only come to, to get cheap goods, and get out of as fast as possible – but much more a luscious, tropical market by the Caribbean sea, where all people of every walk of life can gather, buy their favourite products, and linger along a clean and sparkling “Caño de Auyama”. The problems seem to be overwhelming, but so is our inspiration.

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