Mercado De Abastos – Panama City, Panama - Gastro Obscura

The sun here is relentless. Mother nature holds a magnifying glass over those that explore the market, increasing the potency of its rays. The ruthless heat beats down on the bronzed bodies of the campesinos and their assistants as they wheel overloaded handtrucks of produce to the dozens of cubicles that line the walkway of a massive green farmhouse.

The movement here never stops. Amidst the chaos heavily armed police in their berets and sand colored camouflage uniforms point and shout instructions to the lines of trucks and shoppers. The smell is a mix of fresh produce and motor oil. The scent your nose receives depends entirely on which way the breeze blows.

Inside the warehouse, the workers pass back and forth by a lifeless Coca-Cola machine that at one time provided a fresh supply of water bottles to the thirsty passersby. In the cubicles, men and women sit perfecting the presentation of their limes, carrots, cucumbers, potatoes, bananas, onions, tomatoes, lemons, garlic, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, yams, pineapples, watermelons, and avocados.

Both English and Spanish are used to entice shoppers into checking out their product. Everything is sold by the pound. There’s no bartering here. “Golaso!” echoes from the radio in one cubicle.

Comparatively speaking, the market is quiet on Monday mornings, but you can imagine the hundreds of locals that flock here on a Sunday afternoon. Outside the farmhouse, trucks circle the gray sludge road searching for an open spot to unload their contents. Impatient drivers honk obnoxiously at any vehicle that remains unmoving for more than a minute. A white pickup truck pulls up with a bed full of pineapples wrapped in a net large enough to catch thousands of trout.

At lunch time, the workers escape to the many shanty town restaurants that dot the area around the farm house. They refuel with chicken, white rice and beans while clenching their ferocious thirst with water and sugar cane juice.

Know Before You Go

Drive, or take a metrobus, taxi or an Uber.

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June 12, 2016

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