Dancing Through the Market

It’s Sunday and I stand amidst the vegetable sellers in Mercado Grau. I’m sleepy after a late night of karaoke- una noche divertida spent celebrating a friend’s birthday. I’m a bit thirsty, my worn Nalgene water bottle at the bottom of my bag hidden beneath a bag of choclo (Peruvian corn), too inconvenient to take the time to dig for. We’ve arrived late, the trucks that bring in produce from the chacras (farms) are gone by now and the press of people is refreshingly light; I can even feel a breeze coming in through one of the main entrances.

It must be the sound that catches my attention first, deafening and vibrant and unfamiliar amidst the mercado’s normal hubbub. Bright red, voluminous skirts and small, elegant bowler hats. A statue. A brass band. I’m not sure why a procession is passing through this market, although someone will later tell me it is because of pentecostés. Cat and I buy our potatoes, yelling to our casera over the volume of trumpets and trombones and clashing cymbals. It’s pointless trying to get any more of our produce and we give ourselves in to the moment, moving forward to watch the performance.

The band has not stopped moving but their progress through the market has halted as the dancers ahead of them swish their skirts and twirl around each other. The dancers are older, elegant women from the highlands who move slowly but so confidently, seemingly simple steps that I would struggle to follow. The band is alive too, a mix of young men with modern ear piercings and older men in crisply starched shirts. Their instruments are lovingly used. I can see the trombone player’s mouthpiece taped together at an odd angle. I am transfixed by the joy on the face of a young cymbal player. The weight of the mercado bag pulls at my arm but I’m too enthralled to think about setting it down. The performers dance and move amidst the wreckage of vegetables and soggy cardboard boxes, where the delivery trucks parked not so long ago. This moment is beautiful and mine and so vibrant that I feel the pull to put it into words the minute I get home.

As all regular tasks during winter, Grau trips have become a chore. It is something to be endured, not enjoyed. Something to be rushed through so that I can get home, unload the market bags, and move on with my day. But this Sunday, I lose track of time for a while, blessed to have these men and women share their performance with me and the other caseros of Mercado Grau.

The music never stops, there’s no clear change in the rhythm, but at some point the group begins the slow march forward and out of the market. The man in charge of cleaning the vegetable waste every day follows them, sweeping the ground clean of debris with a palm tree branch. I am awoken from my reverie as I dodge out of his slow, methodical path. I see a woman selling sponges and trash bags look about, as if awakening from a dream. She moves onward with her wares and so do we.

It’s time to buy chicken.


Originally published at www.jvcwithcamila.blogspot.com

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