Despite poor conditions, producers at the Nicoya fair refuse to leave the market

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It only takes a few minutes at the Nicoya market to realize that days here are chaotic. Buses, taxis, buyers and sellers fight for space while producers find ways to fit their products in a corner where there’s barely enough space for a watermelon.

One of them is Dennis González, who has been selling here for 32 years.

An extension cord hangs from the sheet with holes in it that covers him from the sun and rain. One of the restaurants at the market provides electricity to his, and other, stands. His spot doesn’t have potable water nor a bathroom nearby.

The difficulties that sellers face are compensated for with sales and, therefore, the producers want to stay at this market.  

José Antonio Aiza, secretary of board of directors for Nicoya fairgrounds thinks that the poor conditions and the roadway chaos are reason enough to move them off the fairgrounds. Aiza proposed to representatives moving the fair to the street in front of Nicoya’s new church.

“This is literally a hole in the ground,” Aiza said. The new spot has a series of conditions that no other street in Nicoya has. It is in downtown, is well known by the community, easy to access and it has lots of parking spaces.

Despite the better conditions in the new space, González’s response is categorical. “I’m staying here. I’m not moving.” He’s not the only one who opposes Aiza’s proposal.

The center is in charge of organizing the Nicoya fair and has the authority to decide where the fair will be, according to Regional Fair Committee secretary Silvia Briceño.

This has caused a group of sellers to separate themselves from the center and staying on the grounds as independent producers.

“Fair Helps the Market”

The fair is held on Thursday afternoons and Friday mornings and its common for customers to eat at a restaurant after shopping, or buy lottery tickets, cheese or bread rolls. The hallways of the market look empty the rest of the week.

Producers call it the “passerby fair” because their main customers are people using the bus services and buy vegetables while they are coming and going.

According to market manager Iliana Fajardo, the fair is necessary to help invigorate the economy on the grounds and at the bus terminal.

One can’t live without the other. If you ask any of the vendors at the market, they will tell you that market days are good,” Fajardo said.

She admitted that she changed her mind from last year when she told The Voice that someone had to leave in order to prevent disorder at the market.

“It’s clear that if the market leaves, we are going to lose buyers. People aren’t going to carry their things clear from there (the new church),” says Miguel Agüero, a producer with 25 years of experience at the market.

According to Agüero, these captive buyers are the ones who make this location the best.

William Allen, substitute representative and member of the market committee,  is another one of the opponents to the idea of moving. His position is that there needs to be a consultation process with the producers and market studies that prove the new location will work.

Félix Vázquez, manager of the grounds that Aiza belongs to, agrees with Allen. Vázquez questioned the secretary’s initiative because, he alleges, he didn’t meet with the producers beforehand. According to him, Aiza doesn’t represent all the members of the fairgrounds.

New Plan

Even without the new location, conditions for González and Agüero could improve next year.

The city council market committee approved a plan to include money in the 2020 budget to build a new bathroom with a sink and a shower for producers.

They come on Thursday and sleep there and have to go look for a place to bathe. They also need access to a bathroom where they don’t have to pay”, the manager said. 

The improvements are few and the fair will continue having infrastructure problems, but the project puts a few producers at ease who plan to stay in the market regardless of the final decision.

“I may not be comfortable here, but I sell a lot,” González said.