Jerome Levine, HANDOUT
January 5, 2012
Marketing in La Serena
La Serena, the second-oldest city in Chile, is only a 10-minute taxi ride from the port at Coquimbo. We pass neocolonial-style buildings that have survived devastating earthquakes en route to La Recova, the arched marketplace in the city's center.
Vendors sell handicrafts and food delicacies such as crystallized papayas, manjar blanco (a sweet spread) with nuts and lucuma (a tropical fruit). We purchased an inexpensive handmade wooden implement used to mold cooked rice.
At the nearby outdoor farmers market, locals shop for food as they have for generations. Makeshift stands hold mounds of peaches, apples, clementines, strawberries, cherimoyas, avocados, artichokes, asparagus, red potatoes, mushrooms and limes, as well as nutritious quinoa (called the "mother grain" of the Incas), and pickled sugar beets, and a variety of olives and goat cheeses.
Much of the produce sold here is grown in the Elqui Valley. However, the large grapes used to make pisco, the brandy considered to be the national drink of both Chile and Peru, are grown locally, as are the popular papayas, used both as a fruit and made into juice. The offerings look a bit battered, but we learn that the highest quality produce is generally reserved for export.