Saturday in Quito

A cold drizzly Saturday morning in the old town of Quito does not deter the street vendors. Some aim for the tourists with Ecuadorian scarves and ponchos, but the majority are targeting the ordinary Quitenos – with everything from plastic pegs, Samsung Galaxy 6 phones to kitchen whisks. There are people selling lottery tickets, or offering to take your photo. One old man with a tank of water and plastic cups seems to cross my path again and again. With the sudden onset of cold, puffer jackets are big business.

Not to overlook fleecy jackets, hats and shoes for dogs – the models looking less well cared for than their owners.

There are fruit sellers, loading their apples, oranges and tamarillos into large plastic bags as they sit on the side of the narrow streets. Others offer cups of cut up melon and pineapple. If you want something more substantial there are women with plastic bags of pulled pork, or men with a yoke across their shoulders with packets of biscuits of various shapes and sizes. For something sweeter, try a cone of meringue or a cup of red jelly.

And as they offer their goods they cry, their voices echoing across the narrow streets as they encourage custom, each trying to outdo the other with their vocal range. I M reminded of a flock of corellas, heard long before they appear in the evening sky.

I wonder how these people make a living – is theirs a subsistence existence (in some case it definitely appear so) or are they entrepreneurs able to do a deal and buy in bulk and sell in the streets with no overheads – and presumably no taxes.

A couple of days ago, outside the old town I saw a woman with baskets of delicious looking apricots, cherries and strawberries. I asked to take her photo, but she disappeared rapidly, and although I waited on an opposite corner, she did not reappear.

For those without the ability or contacts to sell on the street, there are beggars. I see several amputees, one man with an open wound on his heel which looks as though it needs hospital care, and old women. They are prolific in the porches of the many churches, especially around the San Francisco monastery, but also scattered throughout the town.

In this melange of bustle, crowds and noise, as I huddle into by anorak, the ice cream sellers are missing today


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