The market in Dangriga is absolutely one of our high points. Recently, the government decided that the market could use some renovation, and are currently in the process of building a new structure to house the vendors. It is sort of a running joke among the locals as to when the project will be completed. It is supposed to be finished my July. The joke is...July of what year? I was down there poking around with my camera, and I must say...July 2013 is a little optimistic! One of the fishermen explained it to me like this. The government accepts bids for jobs, just as they would in the states. Then the lowest bid is awarded the contract. This fisherman then said that the lowest bid company will often do shoddy work, or as in this case, never finish the job at all. Then the government must hire a second company to complete the project. The government has already paid once for this job, and so the second contractor gets sort of a raw deal. I hope this is not the case with the new market in Dangriga. However...when the fisherman who had lived here all his 60+ years makes an observation like that...he's generally right.
The market is situated right on the Seaside in the heart of Dangriga. The locals call it "Why Not Island". That's an adorable name for the land it sits on, but I don't get the island part...I guess if you follow the canals all around, the market could be considered an island...? It consists of open air stalls that come to life every morning about 4AM! I have made a new long standing joke with the locals...I tell them that I'll meet them "White Girl Early!" That means about 8AM...If you ask someone to stop by early in the morning, you could be getting guests at 5AM! That's early morning visiting time to a Belizean who works out of the market!
The stalls have no way to secure one's wares, and so the vendors must pack up each evening and re-open each morning. That is one of the issues the new market is supposed to address. It will be a large building with some stalls inside, and those people will be able to secure things and reopen with less effort each day. By nature of what is being sold, some of the vendors will still be arriving at the market before the crack of dawn! The produce never had time to get old, and the fish...The fish is still flopping! These folks will not be able to just "lock up"...They have fresh stuff to "stock up"! It's sort of like a Flea Market, but with new goods and fresh food!
People have asked me about organic produce here in Belize. I have read a little about the genetically modified seeds, and I know most farmers here prefer the heirloom seeds; hands down. I also am pretty confident that the local produce is not being treated with pesticides purchased from a chemical company. I would be surprised if there was anything in the local grower's methods that would be inorganic. The problem with being SURE of organic produce, is... The peddlers will say whatever you want to hear.
"Is your produce grown organically?" I ask.
"Yes! Yes!" replies the vendor.
"So it is not treated with pesticides? Not genetically modified?" I further question.
"Yes! Yes! Pesticides! Yes!" She smiles back...
Hummmmm.....I would venture to guess that she has never used pesticides in her life. But...Who could be sure?!? I know that some of the produce being sold at the market comes from outside Belize. The apples are grown in the USA and I have found grapes from Chile. I assume these are grown according to the standards set by their respective countries...including all the yuck! If you are a stickler for organics...have a pineapple or papaya!
The room for the fish market is CRAZY! All the fishermen bring their fish and display them in the room whole. You select which fish you like and the fisherman will give you a price per pound. I have said before that everything in Belize has two prices, the tourist price and the local price. Now...there are three prices, as we have been here long enough that the fishermen know we are not tourists, but we certainly are not locals either. We get a nice fair in between price. So...you get your price by yelling over the roar of everyone else's negotiations. Then if you would like your whole fish filleted, you can either ask the guy working the knife what he would charge you to fillet it, or the fisherman you are buying from will negotiate for you and include this service in the price per pound. The fish available at the fish market in Dangriga has got to be the freshest in Belize! From Sea to table in less than 24 hours. Often times, the fish market will sell out of fish. The demand is so great, and everyone knows the quality is there. Resorts will send a guy to Dangriga to buy their fish. If the resort relies on their supplier to bring in the fish, it will arrive frozen. Who wants frozen fish when there is such a beautiful array available fresh and filleted in a flurry!?! All you tourist trappers who say Dangriga is not what you expect in Belize...Dangriga IS Belize. The market is Dangriga. Take a day...mosey about...Look! Smell! Touch! Enjoy!