Street Peddlers

Published: December 22nd 2014
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You don't get very far in Placencia without a street peddler trying to sell you something. They are pretty easy to spot in any public area like the street or the beach. They are usually little Mayan ladies carrying plastic bags and wearing backpacks. They are very brazen often coming right up to you while eating in an outdoor restaurant. A single glance in their general direction will summon them over from as far as across the street.

There were 13 of them set up around the sidewalk of the Barefoot Bar. When they tried to peddle their wares to Ian, he happily volunteered his wife for souvenir shopping- gee, thanks for that Honey. Each peddler had set up a small tarp with a selection of their souveniers for sale. Like a lamb to a slaughter, I didn't know where to start, so at one end of the row I sat down and let the first peddler show me her goods. Mostly it was jewellery, sugar bowls, baskets and table runners. One by one, I patiently looked through each and every display and asked questions of the seller, like what was it made of, where they found the stones or how long did it take to make. I was assured that each seller had hand made each and every item but it was quickly evident that they were all selling exactly the same items and I mean exactly. They told me stories of how they were each from a different village, how it takes four days to make a basket by flashlight at night since their village has no electricity, or how they found the healing stones in the river. While their stories were interesting, there is no doubt also fiction and composed to elicit sympathy and higher prices. These products were obviously made at some central location or plant, many looking like large volume production, and the Peddlers are mere distribution network. Still, I really have no problem with people trying to earn a living and we have seen the villages in the Toledo District where these people come from. They are poor, really poor, the villages are very simple with no electricity or running water although we learned the souveniers in actuality mostly come from Guatemala.

At the end of it all, the desperate faces of these Peddlers, at this point each one is now trying to undercut the next to get my sale, I have 3 or 4 of them all trying to talk to me at once, it's become hard to listen and I just can't decide what to buy, I really don't want any of these souvenirs that we will never use, I mean who doesn't want a gawdy necklace with a big carved turtle hanging from it, so I get up and go get some change at the bar and give each peddler $2. No sale today but maybe at least they can go get themselves a cold Coke. They do work tirelessly walking around in the heat, just not much more I can do.


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