In the upper levels of a charming brownstone, steps away from the Universidad Catolica metro stop, Casa Observatorio Lastarria hosts the Feria Verde. Nestled among the independent fashion stores, cozy cafes and flea market-style street vendors on Calle Lastarria, the monthly “Green Fair,” a coming-together of organic and sustainable food and products, perfectly suits the area’s niche.
Cheeses from Melinka Gourmet (photo by Brandon Stanley)
Many people bike to Lastarria, one of the city’s hipster areas. Its offbeat culture caters to the alternative-lifestyle masses forming at an ever-growing rate in Santiago, and eco-conscious customers park an impressive number of bicycles outside the Feria Verde.
The fair occupies the second and third floors of the building while a quaint café, restaurant and small shop reside permanently on the first floor and basement level. The exposed brick walls, rich wood floor and the pungent, thick aromas of lemon and honey milk hanging in the air prime guests for the fair's atmosphere.
The stands and vendors are organized by the nature of their product. Natural and organic foodstuffs populate the second level and miscellaneous sustainable products reside on the first. People stuff the space, making it difficult at times to navigate the aisles between vendors. Money changes hands and goods move from table to bag at marveling speed.
Honey-milk lotions (photo by Brandon Stanley)
On the second floor, intoxicated by the rich smells of the cheese, jam, wine and even organic dulce de leche, I saunter up to one of the honey stands, Caminitos de Dulzura. There I buy seven small plastic tubes of fresh honey, harvested from hives in a forest outside Santiago, for just CP$1,000 (US$2.00). As I slurp on my decadent purchase, I ask the woman behind the table what she thinks about the environmental movement in Santiago. “What do I think?” she replies, “I think it doesn’t exist!”
She may have a point but looking around the room packed with a diverse hodgepodge of people, teenagers, new families and older couples, all taking samples, making purchases and asking informed questions about the products, one cannot ignore the environmental movement taking place.
Back on the merchandise level of the fair, an exuberant patron of the Feria Verde both agrees and disagrees with the honey-vendor's opinion. “Well, you certainly can’t find things like this in the supermarket,” she offers while nibbling on an apple chip, “Recently, values are changing, but this knowledge and these products don’t make it to all of the population. It’s important to learn and recognize what products are being made in a natural way, how it’s done, and who’s doing it.”
Organic manjar (photo by Brandon Stanley)
On the first floor, I notice one vendor, Remade in Chile, enjoying particularly brisk business. Remade in Chile, a project belonging to the “Desafío Levantemos Chile” (Challenge to Lift Chile) movement, sells products made exclusively from reused materials. Their slogan: “Reuse. Design. Empower.” Their stall at the Green Fair limits its merchandise to accessories like bracelets, backpacks and scarves, but their usual product listing also includes a wide range of housewares, technology and even haute couture.
Letty Bahamondes, co-founder of Remade in Chile and veteran green-fair attendee, used to share the skeptical sentiments of her peers regarding the environmental atmosphere in Santiago, “When I first arrived on the scene I thought, ‘Who’s going to come to this? There’s not even an atmosphere for recycling in Chile!’ I was so surprised that first time. Every time I come I realize that there are people who come to things like this. The culture exists, it’s just hiding!” Re-made in Chile’s customers, however, do not hide. In the ten minutes I speak with Letty, very few people walk away from the stand without a product in their hands.
As the sun sets on Lastarria, the fair still pulses; four hours remain before it ends at 9:00. A foot-traffic jam on the steps to the door gives me the opportunity to speak to the young couple in front of me, who gleefully show me their loot. “The green movement is stronger now. People [in Santiago] are increasingly conscious of the decisions they make,” the woman tells me. Her husband adds, “We recycle, we conserve energy and water, and we come to fairs like this to eat organic foods. They’re all efforts to live a better life."
Emerging from the mass of people crowding around the door, observing the line winding out the door and bicycles still littering the street, it seems that Santiago’s environmental culture lives and is thriving.
Casa Observatorio Lastarria hosts a Feria Verde during the final weekend of every month. Entrance is free.
Casa Observatorio Lastarria
?Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile?