When I think of Bolivia, I’m immediately transported to the Tarabuco Market. The smell of stewed meat fills my nostrils and the vibrant colors of woven textiles dance before me, this is how I remember Bolivia. I loved following the Gringo Trail through the Salt Flats and reaching the summit of Huyana Potosi, but Bolivia really came alive at the bustling markets. While women went about their weekly shopping, children in tow and tourists bargained for alpaca sweaters I roamed along the dusty side streets taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Here is what I found:
The Tarabuco Market is held every Sunday and spans far beyond the busy central square where much of the tourist souvenirs are sold. Wandering past the main square I found a huge vegetable market, a live animal auction and several side streets lined with artisan shops. All the neon blankets, shawls and belts are beautiful, but the people is what caught my eye. The indigenous Yampura women almost seemed to have a uniform, every one in a bright colored A-line skirt accompanied by an embroidered blouse, topped off with a bowler hat. Children were attached like accessories to the back, side or front.
The penetrating stare of a Bolivian woman at the Tarabuco Market (above). Her smile was as intense as her eyes when I shared the photo she allowed me to take of her and her daughter. Bolivians are not known to be welcoming or friendly to visitors, but when you are rewarded with a smile you can be sure it is genuine.
Many of the market stalls are simply sidewalks covered with blankets displaying the hand made goods of the seller. The market is set up and taken down each Sunday, much of the goods bought and sold carried in from nearby towns. I marveled at the handicrafts, but also at the effort it took to get them to market.
Every market in Bolivia offers coca leaves for sale. The leaves are a staple for Bolivians and it is common to see women and men alike toting a full bag of coca leaves with them where ever they go. The woman above takes a break to chew some coca leaves, which are believed to help with altitude and stave off hunger among other things.
I would highly recommend a visit to the Tarabuco Market to anyone visiting Bolivia. As I have said many times on this site, markets are the heartbeat of a country and there is no better place to mingle with locals or try dishes specific to a country, region or even city. The above collection of photographs are just a few of the moments I enjoyed throughout the day in Tarabuco, one of my favorite stops in Bolivia.
WHEN YOU GO:
Plan a full day, Tarabuco is 65km from Sucre. The bumpy bus ride is about 2 hours one-way, so plan to leave early and give yourself plenty of wandering time. You can stay in Tarabuco, however the accommodations are sparse and transportation from Sucre is easy.
Bring cash, there is no cash machine in Tarabuco. Make sure you bring all your funds for the day with a little extra in case you find something unique you can’t live without.
Plan to bargain, as with all markets throughout South America you will have to do some haggling to purchase souvenirs and even lunch- be prepared.