Nobody Visits This Part Of Puerto Rico…Find Out Why
I took the tram up to the Mercado de Rio Piedras. Walking past graffiti-covered shop after shop this was a different world than the movie set of old San Juan propped up by pastel-painted buildings and cruise ship dollars. This was the guts of San Juan and it is reeling. A failing economy, not yet recovered from the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The Mercado had the bones of an eerie dystopian wing of the Mall of America. Vendors’ pride in their stalls shined through like a flower growing out of concrete. Nicely arranged fruit stalls, a Barber that was neat and orderly, a well-stocked butcher case. I stopped by the cafeteria, dotted with a handful of full-time loiterers but found a couple of bright food stalls cooking Puerto Rican comfort dishes. There was a line of 4–5 women at one so I ate there. I ordered a bowl of Sancocho which was solid. It was served with mangú, a delicious plantain mash engineered to leave any appetite satiated.
It all felt odd, I felt like a trespasser into the heart of the struggles of the country, the area had the undeniable stillness and quiet of unemployment. But in that Mercado, people were doing their best, the stalls were still open, meals were being prepped, mangos and avocados being neatly displayed amongst a dreary backdrop. A symbol of resilience, the Mercado beats on.
Mercado de Rio Piedras
1114 C. Vallejo, San Juan, 00925, Puerto Rico
Reggie Ate: Sancocho and Mangú (mashed plantains)
Old San Juan