One of the main stops you would want to make if you ventured over to Peru in the Amazon Rainforest is the Belen Market and their floating city. (Next week we discover the Belen floating city.)
The Belen Market is a place where all the farmer’s, fishermen, local vendors, crafts people and anyone with anything to eat, drink, cook with, wear are trying to get you to spend your soles (money) on their goods. Why not? There you should be able to find the freshest, most indigenous products in the area. With 150 local communities traveling to be a part of this bustling and loud market scene. Most people there are living day to day. Although the conditions of the people are meager there is a lot of joy and contentment. Everyone is working in harmony with others to create a massive offering that will envelop all of your senses and make you want to try everything you come across along the way!
As you walk through the aisles you notice an abundance of natural goodness. The sun works its magic on the fruits and vegetables making the taste and sight of them so pungent. There are a lot of root vegetables; yucca is a main staple of the Peruvian diet. Bananas, bananas and platanos (sweet bananas) everywhere and are delicious! The palm trees offers these huge leaves that are used for cooking over the fire or baking dishes, the strands of dried leaves are used to tie the dishes up as they cook or steam the ingredients within and the flavor of the palm tree is released into the food. Common dishes prepared this way are fish, vegetables and cornmeal tamales. This cooking process makes the food so tender. Their pastries are delicious, as you walk through the market and the streets of Iquitos you notice vendors selling these bread /cookie type things about five common varieties. They are a perfect treat, not too sweet and so fresh! Fresh chickens, fish, pig parts are available. They have delicious curries, olives, beans, spices and much more.
They have a whole section of the market dedicated to plant medicines made there by loretanas. Jungle people who mix plant medicine as their profession. They make medicinal mixtures using plants, roots, flowers, herbs and alcohol, honey and who knows what else. Maybe even dosing the medicine with a blessing or shake of the chacruna leaves to give it special healing powers. Local people rely on these tinctures and remedies to treat their illnesses. They even use, make and sell flower water to purify the outer self and make you more beautiful.
Everywhere you look there is something to behold. Music seeps into the background as do the call of the vendors drawing attention to their wares or the local activist telling you what is on his mind. Generations of families working hard together to help present their trade or craft to the market and earn a living. Where many of the people who sell and buy most everything they need at the market live together as a community.
The energy there is wild, even a bit chaotic. You get the sense as a traveler of how far away from home you are and how the market is a place where you can learn about what the jungle provides for its people and anyone who might want to get lost and spend some time there at the Belen Market.
PS. The earlier you go, 5am start time, the fresher and more abundant the offerings.