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The Earth Markets Reach the Caribbean

The Old San Juan Farmers' Market becomes the first to join the Slow Food network in the Caribbean and the second for the U.S. territories...


The Earth Market network has welcomed its first tropical member, a vibrant market in the historic district of Old San Juan that displays the wonderful colors and flavors of the island, providing a much-needed alternative to the imported produce filling Puerto Rico's supermarkets.


The Old San Juan Farmers' Market, called Mercado Agricula Natural in Spanish, is held every Saturday morning in the internal courtyard of the Museo de Arte e Historia in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, a pleasant district close to the sea that attracts many tourists. Launched in March 2010, it is privately managed in collaboration with the very active Slow Food Boricua Convivium. The organizers selected around 40 small-scale producers from across the island for their commitment to good, clean and fair food production, and around 20 producers participate each week.


The market focuses on the link between nutrition, health and a natural lifestyle and offers a striking quantity and quality of fresh produce. Coconuts, bananas, sour sop, mangos, plantains, star fruit, yucca, peppers, tomatoes, avocados, passion fruit, breadfruit and citrus fruits according to the season as well as eggs and dairy products, sourdough bread, coffee, sweets, flowers and natural beauty/hygiene products.


The market has chosen to exclude fresh meat or meat products from both the stalls and the freshly prepared street foods. But no one seems to miss it and the vegan and vegetarian dishes made using the best organic ingredients, often directly from the market producers, are very popular.


The market is actually one of the few places on the island where high quality local food can be found. Puerto Rico is a place of extraordinary natural beauty, with a climate that is favorable to year-round cultivation of many crops. However, local agricultural biodiversity is at risk due to the flooding of the market with imported food products at discounted prices. Even small-scale local fishing is in great difficulty.


The Earth Market is a small but important step for the Puerto Rican pride, on an island that has suffered, and continues to suffer, heavily from a kind of gastronomic colonization.


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