Thursday, August 30, 2012

Iquitos, Peru: Belen Market, (Part 3 of 4)

To my knowledge, only time eats plastic. I suspect that time will bring about some creature that devours plastic as its main course. For now, plastic stays with us after it's discarded amidst the muck of the lane ways and waterways.

Back entrance to Belen Market

In the otherworldly Romantic view of poverty there is no filth or disease or garbage.

A la Van Gogh, the road to Belen Market by mototaxi

As I prowl the streets and backways of Belen Market, getting to know the area and its people I also come to know the rest of living things to some degree, those things big enough to see and separate from the mass of throbbing life at the microlevel. I see the birds and the dogs that live on the discards of daily doings. They watch over me as well, 'All watched over by eating machines of loving grace'. 

Guardians of the public health

I like the market area a lot. It's poor and it has more than its share of hard living. But it has an immediacy that appeals to me, a quickness of life one might not find in the "rational" life of other markets where one must weigh and plan to make a living. Here, life is marginal in that there is little room for mistakes. There is little to lose, and thus one mustn't lose anything for fear of losing all.

There is some genuine poverty at Belen Market.
Povrty is not fun. It's not interesting in itself. It's not something better for other people than the good of Modernity. But often one finds the philistine Modernist going on about how happy poor people are and if only the Modernist could give up the rat race he too would go live with the natives and be authentic. Yes, a painted view of reality. Very pretty.

One might romanticize, in oil paint.

In the lower centre of the market stands a ruined site of some pretentious beautification project. People avoid it. The activities of men and women are on the rim of this circle of government meddling.

In our modern world of government caring for us because we are too stupid to do so ourselves, tobacco is one of the worst public evils imaginable. If one smokes tobacco, then another might die of cancer. And if not, then the smoker will certainly do so, adding to the general tax burden of all who must pay for his dying. In Belen Market such infantalising is pretty much unknown.

Even poor people take time out for a smoke break.

The last place I lived before coming to South America, Canada, it cost, I think, roughly $1,000.00 for a kilogram of tobacco at a local store. At Belen Market it costs 20 soles, or about $7.00. Non-smokers can spend time chatting up the ladies who hand roll the cigarettes.

Tobacco by the roll or by the kilogram

If one is a dedicated non-smoker, there is the option of buying other items from the stall, far healthier, I think.

Skulls and other signs of death

One can shop for a machete and a machete teeshirt, and one can find a bowl to make ones dinner in. Evil earth-destroying bastard that I am, I bought a bowl. It's in the black plastic bag.

Cutting down the rain forest to make bowls and plates for people.

One can shop for the evening meal, stooping down to inspect the meal in the works as people brush past with private concerns that leave others to their own.

Maggots eating to be dinner

I've eaten maggots before, though this time, since I've done that already, I have no enthusiasm for it. But there is value in the meat, and these maggots will fry and nourish someone by day's end. Those who remain in situ will continue their work of churning the small into the smaller and making the tiny bigger.

Looking much tastier than those I've eaten before.

One renders all things: some into small; some into art.  Maggots.

Looking much better as a work of art than the work of dinner

Even the market must close at some point so people can return to their homes and families for private time. Saving the people of the Amazon Rain Forest is a job for those who sell food and goods and provide labour and service. But one must rest, too.

Closing time at Belen Market.

Much of what goes on in the public market goes on everywhere, though mostly in the Modern world hidden from us under plastic wrap and stored in cans and shoved away in the darkness. But there is an army of cleaners eating up the muck to keep us healthy so we can continue on our daily lives in peace.

Foot soldier of cleanliness

There is no ideology in the vulture and maggot world of filth. There is only life. I see life very clearly at the Belen Market.

  A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:

And here are some reviews and comments on said book:

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