“The Godfather,” a Catalina Macaw at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, Ohio.
Photo by Rebecca Oet, 15, Ohio.
The Floating Market
How do you buy your fresh fruit and vegetables? Does your family drive to the supermarket? Or do you go to a farmer’s market and buy produce directly from the people who grew the food? Do you stop at a roadside stand and buy fresh veggies from a family? How about a floating flotilla of boats coming to dock in your town laden with fresh fruits and vegetables from Venezuela?
Curacao is an island nation of 150,000 people 48 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Originally, people settled here to farm, growing beans and other food; but now there are hardly any farms left. Mangoes grow wild on the island, but not any other fruit. The small farms that are left cannot grow enough to feed the population. So, people developed a system of importing food on large boats from nearby Venezuela.
Oil is a big industry in Venezuela. Shell Oil expanded their operations to the little island off the coast in 1915, and the workers followed. As the oil industry grew in Curacao, so did the need to feed the workers. Food from their native country was brought in to sustain the oil workers.
The same system of delivering food still exists today. Large boats are docked in the Santa Anna Bay in the capital of Willemstad and divided into three sections. The first set of boats sell fish; the middle boats sell toys, candy and South American chocolate. The third section of boats sell all types of tropical fruit and vegetables. You can buy pineapples, bananas, oranges, and fruits you may have never seen before. However, there are no apples. Apples from the U.S. can be bought at the local supermarket.
The vendors live on their boats for three months. After that, they must return to their country, and new vendors take their place. Every day, smaller boats make the 48-mile journey to replenish the larger boats that are tied to the docks. The customers haggle with the vendors for the best prices. And you don’t have to leave your car to do your shopping. There is a road running parallel to the docks. Vendors rush over with bags of fruit and vegetables. Just pick what you want and drive home!
Curacao has major grocery stores in the cities, but the prices are cheaper at the floating market. It’s a system that has worked for a hundred years. It also shows how the two countries are linked historically and culturally. The friendship between two places will last another hundred years.
—Roi J. Tamkin, photographer, Georgia.