In San José’s Mercado Central, aromas of fresh flowers, pungent spices and bran-flavored pet food waft through the stalls. Vendors call out to potential buyers, attempting to move everything from snakeskin boots to curry powder to children’s underwear. The less motivated shopkeepers chat amongst themselves, occasionally parting ways to help a customer or sneak off to one of the market’s small restaurants, known here as sodas.
In the heart of the city’s downtown, the market sprawls between Central and First avenues and 6th and 8th streets, 250 meters northwest of Parque Central. And as the largest market in San José, Mercado Central challenges its visitors to come up with a product that can’t be found. Visitors and salesmen have been haggling here since the late 1800s, and these days, they do so at more than 200 businesses.
Each day, thousands of people show up to purchase produce, flowers, seafood, souvenirs, medicinal herbs, leather goods and lord knows what else. Tico Times photographer Alberto Font recently spent a day at the market, and his photos capture some of the longest-standing stalls and vendors – the ones that make Mercado Central one of the most popular attractions in the city.