One of my favorite places to visit - I managed to make it there twice - was the Mercado Publico. Florianopolis, as part of a state named Santa Catarina, and being on the Eastern coast of the country, has a beautiful culture and many buildings that are reminiscent of early western, specifically Spanish, influence. Though people have been selling their wares in the area for centuries, the actual structure we visited was initially constructed in the mid 1800s with many additions and modifications made over the next 150 years to accommodate sellers and upgrade the buildings to modern standards.
One of my absolute, most favorite things about Florianopolis is that because of its location, surrounded by the sea, we had seafood for literally every single meal except breakfast. I wasn’t brave enough to buy any from the local vendors at the market but I figured ordering them at a restaurant was a safe bet. The stalls of the market run along each side of the main building with the center open and full of seating for patrons of the many surrounding eateries. As you walk along, the entrances to the restaurants are lined with staff who’s job is essentially to talk you into eating there by asking if you’d like to see a menu or take a seat. I never have gotten very good at responding to this kind of marketing. I just say “no thank you” a million times to every single waiter I pass. (I guess it doesn’t help that all I ever managed to learn to say in Portuguese was “thank you” and “bathroom”.) Well I did decide on a place finally (of my own volition) and picked “Oysters ‘Something’” off the menu. As stated I can hardly speak two words of Portuguese but what’s living if you don’t order from a menu you don’t understand. Apparently I ordered “Steamed Oysters” and they were quite good.
I know that, though residents of “Floripa” do shop there, it is certainly a tourist destination and I’m sure I stuck out like a sore thumb with my Canon AE-1 hanging around my neck. We bought a mug with a Brazilian flag and pretty wooden spoon but mostly I enjoyed just looking around at all the wares - spices and fruits and seafood and kitschy gifts - and people. Oh I love watching people, especially in other countries. I love to try to understand their fashion choices, guess what they’re talking about, listen to their music (the market had a live band right in the middle of the main building), and just generally try to understand more about their culture. At one point someone caught me taking a picture of their table and waved me over to ask if I was a journalist. I said “yes” because it was easier than explaining my creepy habits of observation and my blog which is more of a pastime than any sort of official cultural documentation.
One of the most interesting things to me was that everyone seemed to be drinking Heineken. Sure, the people of Brazil like beer as much as the next guy, but Heineken? All of the restaurants at the market offered these huge, beer glass shaped tumblers with a tap at the bottom for a table to share, a product of Heineken I’m sure as the name was emblazoned across the front. I did try a Brazilian maltz beer at one point and it was pretty good if a tad on the sweet side for my preference. But this is what I love about going to markets. It is the opportunity to touch a tiny little bit of another world and I want to embrace it every chance I get.