I have to write down a few lines about street vending in Bolivia’s capital, Pa Paz. Street vendors are everywhere in South America, perhaps not so common in the parts of Argentina I passed. In Chile, you can find them in every slightly larger community, but nothing as tangible as in La Paz.
I had my hostel or backpackers hostel in the immediate vicinity of the Witches Market, a tourist attraction like no other. In this area, there are so many street vendors that it is difficult to get around and it is not helped by the fact that at the same time there is a traffic chaos that beats most people.
When you walk on these streets, you are almost shocked by all the color around. You could almost believe that the rainbow got its origin from here.
They sell everything from beautiful handicrafts and hand-woven rugs, tablecloths, sweaters, hats to magazines, drinks, food and everything you could wish for. Much of what is sold is also cheap junk and unnecessary. Cheap replicas of branded products can also be found in this area.
The name ”Witch Market” comes from the fact that they also sell medicinal plants, such as coca leaves or khat, herbs but also something that resembled dried amphibians.
Of course, there will also be dried llama foetuses to buy.
The people selling this are usually slightly older women in weird round, brown or black hats.
It can’t be easy being a street vendor in La Paz. Most people open up their colorful stalls around nine or ten o’clock in the morning and close late in the evenings.
The vast majority of street vendors are women, young and old, and they sit at their stalls and knit, sew or otherwise try to make something that can be sold. From me they got nothing.
Many of these have their small children with them and they play, laugh and cry and in between they sleep. The mothers usually eat at their stalls and hope that someone is willing to buy their produce. Without knowing, I don’t think these street-selling women have such a high level of education and they are probably struggling to make ends meet.
Many times here in Sweden you hear complaining from those who are allowed to work longer than 8 hours a day. These women probably work 11-12 hours a day and even weekends
// The Global Cyclist 1726