It’s past midnight; many are still in deep sleep. Not so for market vendors, who bring fresh-from-the-farm produce to sell. Their day starts way before the sun rises, and their journey from communities far away brings them to the old capital. They brave the weather, the risks and much more to stay in the business. It’s an arduous job and business is not always brisk. So the next time you get the fresh tomatoes, cilantro or papayas, you might just want to head out to get a glimpse of the market scene and get to know the vendors. News Five’s Delahnie Bain did just that.
The fruit and vegetable vendors: we know that they are a fixture in the West Canal Area, we know they are conveniently available for early morning shopping and we know that they offer a wide array of foods fresh and affordable. But do you know what it takes for them to be there?
“At three o’clock in the morning, most of the country is still in bed. But that’s when the many days start for the vendors who live in northern and western districts, but earn their living in the Belize City market or out here along West Collet Canal.”
Seul Henriquez, Vendor from Armenia Village, Cayo
“I come from early in the morning like two o’clock, sometimes seven o’clock. I stay here and then I come with a friend to sell my products today and tomorrow. Tomorrow we’re leaving like one o’clock City Council says.”
While Seul Henriquez, braves the lonely road to come from Armenia in the morning, Santos Najarro from Valley of Peace says it’s too risky.
Santos Najarro, Vendor from Valley of Piece, Cayo
“It’s dangerous for me and for many of the vendors because since it has a history of robberies and a few years ago somebody was killed there and then everybody is afraid because the money is something attracts people, especially robbers and when you come into the darkness of the road, it’s very difficult to come when you know that somebody is going to try to rob you.”
What makes it even more difficult is that these vendors leave their families behind for days to sell their produce. They also give up the comfort of their homes and spend many nights in their trucks. And if you’ve seen the news lately, you’ll know it’s not exactly safe out there.
Miguel Mai, Vendor from San Antonio Village, Cayo
“Things right now rough right. We di try come once fi di week or sometimes two times fi di week. But right now the fuel is expensive. We only do one trip for the week. We di si things rough.”
“I stay here on the nights of Monday and Thursday.”
“And where do you stay?”
“Here in the market. We have to sleep here. There are a lot of people coming around. They shout to us, they knock on our trucks and we just have to be alert. I always worry. There have been occasions that my truck has been stoned with big stones, pints when drunk people are passing and you are always afraid.”
“We come here. Like we don’t have no kind of protection here and we sleep in like nothing here and we worry. Every night we come here we have worries because we don’t have any protection here by this canal side.”
And to top it all off, the vendors have had been at constant odds with the City Council over selling hours and location; even with a new market that was recently inaugurated.
“With the city council, they are trying to move people around and around. Many years ago my daddy used to sell on the back street, then they move over there, then a few years ago we get moved from here, then the other day they move us from side of the terminal, then from the terminal to the pound yard, now everybody is here again. Makes no kinda sense.”
“We have to pay rent right yah, we have to pay di spot ten dollars every day. If we noh di mek di profit how we wah pay? Just like the market right now, dehn di charge so much money fi go een deh. If you noh have no money how you wah go een deh? And dehn di force di people fi go een deh.”
As tough as the job may be, these vendors have families at home to take care of and so they keep coming back.
“We need to survive, we need to maintain our family. Everybody has to do some kind to work to maintain their families. Without money we can’t survive. My dad used to come here so it has been like a family thing so we all come here. There’s a market in Belmopan but we have to divide. There’s so much agriculture people and there’s a lot of vending so not everybody can go just to one market.”
“The next market in Belmopan or Cayo is too little time. If you bring a lot of business like ten sacks of cabbage, it doesn’t sell in Belmopan; you get one hour or two hours. In Belize, all day and today and tomorrow.”
“I tell you things rough but we have to stay yah fi maintain all ah dem. We have to pay school fees, lot ah expense we have so we have to see weh we could do with these things yah. It’s all we have.”
“So there you have it; the work, sacrifices and the risks these vendors take on everyday to take care of their families while conveniently serving yours. Reporting for News Five, I am Delahnie Bain.”