Experience the raw uncut Colombia you came here for when you see inside the weird and interesting Plaza Mercado de La 40, the biggest fruit/veggie market in Pereira. But, you have to be there early to see the real action.
Plaza Mercado de La 40
Located only one block off Avenida 30 de Agosto and calle 39 (“Plaza de mercado por la 39” to a taxi driver or asking directions in local Spanish), is a massive weird looking building brimming with fresh food. Everything from live animals to exotic fruits can be found here.
We found many of the local fruits. Pineapples from Cerritos and local Sour Sop. Visitors can also find import fruits like apples and kiwis from Chile. Note: This is a larger more industrialized food distribution center. Factory farms and larger corporation farms from the Department of Boyaca (which is tierra fria or cold earth – easier to grow veggies). Some percentage of the food coming in there is GMO. Use your best judgement. Plantains from Quindio are almost 99% GMO.
Shipments arrive mostly on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The best time to shop at the plaza is 4:00 am till 7:00 am when the most food stalls are open and vendors are feeling competitive. We went at 10:30, and while there were many “locales” still open, I don’t feel like we always got good prices. Your biggest win situation here would be to arrive early and buy in bulk – which is great if you have a family to feed or a business to run. Everything here is super fresh – especially compared to SuperInter, Exito and all the big supermarkets. This is stuff that comes in fresh off the coffee jeep, box trucks and even semi’s.
There is a whole section dedicated to fish, meat and poultry. You will see guys in there slaughtering their hearts out – and ready to cut and pack almost any type of meat. I imagine, if you planned it in advance with the butcher, you could probably find exotic meats like lamb/mutton, turkey and veal. It has a very raw, 3rd world feel when you visit this place. We don’t mean this in a bad way at all. The “market plaza” is an old Latin American institution present in every city across the continent from Buenos Aires to Cartagena, but it’s something that most visitors will pass by.
You can see every type of person shopping here. From women who sell fruit in the street to entrepreneurs and restaurant owners, you will see it all. But, keep track of your numbers. Next time, we are going to write down every purchase and then ask around to see if we received fair prices. We are definitely planning to be there earlier in the morning at 6:00 am, give or take a half hour.
This is people-watching heaven. For a visitor from another country it reveals the pantry of Colombia. Here you find the basic fundamentals of the local culture and cuisine. From the juices to the soups, caldos, beans and fried rice, you will get a feel for what Pereira eats, when you visit “Plaza Mercado de la 40.” Beans, plantains, yucca and potato are the basic staples, fruits for juices and cabbage or lettuce for salads. You won’t find Euro-American favorites like Brussels Sprouts or Artichokes. But you will find avocado, tomato, onion and cilantro.
For a really different – but very “local” experience, we recommend you pay a visit to Plaza Mercado de la 40 in Pereira. It’s a very unique mix of Colombia, both the old and the new. You will see old men with ponchos, carriles (a type of pouch the Paisa men carry) and machetes. You will see Gamines (or lower class dandies) with their punked-out “Lid” style hats, silver or gold chains, jeans and tennis shoes, in varying states of new or old. You will see the average Colombian doing their best to scrape out a living from whatever God gave him, striving to be a productive and useful citizen or simply just survive. For a very raw, very Colombian experience…come wander or shop the stalls of Plaza Mercado.