I first came to Paraguay in the early 90s and supermarket chains were rare. There was probably one or two large grocery stores and they were not even air conditioned and almost always owned by Koreans.
Mariscal Estigarribia is the main street that runs through the middle of the city center, one block over from our street (where the Cathedral is also located). Most of the interurban buses route through this area as well as some that go to Asuncion or the terminal regularly, so it was the perfect spot for a marketplace.
Today we have chain supermarkets all over the place. In San Lorenzo alone, there must be at least 4 of them. One of them is conveniently located about three blocks away from my mothers so his is where we get most of our groceries on a regular basis. The Superseis.
Paraguayan supermarket chain.
It was Saturday, and Joaquin (my 22 year old brother) was going to be home for lunch. She always makes him what he wants on the weekends. Today "Puchero" (osobuco soup) was on the menu.
I had brought back all of the ingredients buy carrots. Before I left there were enought but while I was gone, mom used them to make a smoothie. It was around 11 am and I didn't want to go back to the store so instead I went to the market. I wanted to get some nectarines anyway, they were in season and cheap (~$0.75 a dozen).
the first fruit guy
I didn't want to wander far. to get to the beginning of the market I had to walk about 6 - 7 blocks. I stopped at the first place I saw that was selling fruit.
The next thing on my list was lima beans. I had bought them at the supermarket once but that was a mistake. You see, even though chain supermarkets were built all over the city, the main street market is still the choice when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables. Even thought the Superseis may look like 'progress' to the foreign eye, the people running them are still Paraguayan. Quality control and checking expiration dates are not on the daily "To Do" lists.
All along the main road you can find ladies chattering away in Guarani asking everyone that passes by "Que desea, que va llevar?" (What do you wish, what will you take?) in hopes to make a sale.
I remember when I was in university a paper was published that said that most of the food that was sold at the street market had traces of lead in them. This was because the exhaust from all the traffic (mostly these old buses) settled on green leafy vegetables. Si despite the colorful stimulus of all the edible goods, buying them here isn't very good for you after all.
Luckily, there's a organic farm close to where we live called EcoGranja that delivers fresh vegetables to your home. They also sell veggies from this farm at the supermarket so I prefer getting them from the store (or delivery if I'm feeling lazy or it's pouring outside)
Cheap hair accessories, socks, clothing, and decorated terere and mate sets can be found all along this road. People walk up and down along the marketplace dangerously close to buses that wobble along the bumpy road.
La Yuyera (the weed lady)
Yuyos can be translated into English as "weeds". Yuyeras are also seen selling hundreds of medicinal plants. Because doctors fees are expensive in Paraguay (or rather people are very poor here), many people rely of the use of medicinal plants to cure their ailments. Health is supposed to be subsidized and there is a central hospital and all but mom says that there is never any medication and you have to wait for a long time.
I saw luffas hanging from one of these stolls and knew that if I got one they'd have seeds in them for sure (later I found that there was a cockaroach in them as well. Gross).