A Visit to One of Brazil's Largest Marketplaces Before The World Cup Raids

The vast majority of Salvador's population, who live in slums, are not allowed inside the city's new shopping malls. So this became the key place for the poorer 85 percent of the population to buy its food and other groceries.

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Jun 2 2014, 4:20am

This was life at the open market Feira de São Joaquim (link in Portuguese) in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. It was a chaotic market where people from the slums bought their groceries, but it no longer exists since in this form it's now being "cleaned up" for the World Cup.

It is one of the largest open markets in Brazil, or perhaps all of South America. Its history goes back hundreds of years, and it was originally one of the slaving capitals of the world. The vast majority of Salvador's people, who live in slums, are not allowed inside the city's new shopping malls. So this became the key place for the poorer 85 percent of the population to buy its food and other groceries. 

In 2011, I set out with another local photographer and photographed it over a period of six weeks. Two weeks after we finished, the police carried out a large raid in the market. They succeeded in capturing more than 60 drug dealers and other petty criminals, and in shutting part of the market down completely.

Today, the planned renovation is stalled (link in Portuguese), and the project's completion in time for the World Cup is in question. What was originally sold as a cleanup effort that would improve the quality of life for the people who do business there has instead scattered the workers and former vendors across the city.

Now, many of these people are unemployed, or struggling to scratch out a living. Those who held out hope for the reopening of the market are now faced with the stark reality that, after almost three years, the "seven stage plan" for revitalization hasn't even left stage one. 

The vendors have staged protests and were eventually permitted an audience with the local government. Officials blamed unions and planning difficulties. 

(Ed. note- An earlier version of this piece overstated the extent to which the market was closed. Additionally, according to our Brazlian staff, while this is a large market, the single largest outdoor market in Brazil is in Caruaru, not Salvador.)   

More of Lennart Maschmeyer's photos here.

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