There was definitely something fishy about La Libertad – the small coastal town with the dreamy name, Freedom, but what made it so appealing was anything but.
The air was hot and heavy and clung stubbornly to my clothes. My nose twitched as the warm wind carried a plethora of smells. I walked with a determined step towards the pier where a crowd of people, animated and busy, gathered. And, suddenly, out of nowhere I was hit by a sharp blow straight to my nose, my eyes started to sting, slowly tearing up.
I then realized that what hit me so violently was the distinct smell of fish.
At first sight, La Libertad with its dark sand beach not propitious to the surfing El Salvador is famed for, doesn’t look like it has much to offer to visitors but its fish market begs to differ. From the early morning hours fish mongers display the fresh catch of the day while sun-burned fishermen haul in loads of fish and crustaceans; curly shrimps, crusty crabs, slimy stingrays and scaly fish holding on to their last breath are haphazardly tossed into fast-melting ice buckets.
To avoid crowding the beach, the small fishing boats are lifted from the water using a crane to then be lowered onto the pier where they’re permanently docked. A slew of eager buyers waited patiently to pick among the freshest fish in the country while hungry seagulls gawked from high above. And then there was me, wide-eyed and camera in hand, trying to capture every fleeting moment of this camaraderie of sorts.
I don’t think anywhere else but a market gives an insight (albeit brief) to local life in its simplest, truest form. Throughout my travels, I’ve noticed that a contagious joyfulness permeates the air in markets. Most markets can be hectic and chaotic with people busy selling, buying, chatting and working hard, but a teethy smile is always flashed or an enthusiastic hello is often voiced. The conviviality at markets is so wonderful and genuine!
After my visit to the pier market, I learned that not all that is fishy should be avoided.
Read all about my travels in El Salvador!
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Do you enjoy going to markets (even if there’s something fishy about them)?