transport | urbanism | adventures | pontification
After reading Saskia Sassen’s blog post about the largest market in South America, I decided I needed to visit La Salada. This sprawling agglomeration of clothing stalls and food vendors on the outskirts of Buenos Aires has a reputation of harboring some unsavory characters, but I decided to make an adventure out of my trip to buy warm clothes for my trip south to Ushuaia.
Shoppers from all over Argentina flock to La Salada on its market days, Tuesdays and Sundays. Indeed, when I was in Viedma (500 miles to the south), there were fliers advertising charter trips to La Salada. To make their bulk purchases, clothing resellers can ride such overnight double-decker charter buses, which travel directly through the masses of pedestrians and vendors to the parking lot in the center of La Salada (a video of such maneuvering, assisted by men who push people out of the way and expect tips from the bus drivers in return, is here). It is almost easier to reach the market from hundreds of miles away than it is to arrive from the center of Buenos Aires, since there are not direct regular buses. I had heard rumors of a special variant of the Route 32 bus that traveled from the central Estación Once to La Salada, but the ticket vendor at Estación Once told me and a number of other La Salada-goers that it was not operating. Since we could not take a direct bus, we had to transfer at Puente de la Noria to “truchas,” vans providing unlicensed passenger service. As we climbed onto the creaky wooden benches and seats in the back, one of the women complained, “We’re paying four pesos for this? I could hire a private car for that amount!” Her shopping companion responded, “Well, they only get the business two days a week, they have to take advantage of it.”
I arrived successfully and wandered the rows of stalls looking for a jacket and gloves. I was amused by the quantity of “trucha” merchandise – clothing bearing the logos of Nike, Adidas, and other brands, labeled with small stickers reading “Replica.” After making my purchases, I enjoyed dinner and marveled as a train made its way through the market (not unlike this, but with honking double-decker buses thrown into the mix). More pictures of La Salada are available here. I took some good ones of my own, but thanks to some unsavory characters, most of them didn’t make it back with me.