Strolling through city streets with the background beat of a sharp knife hitting a cutting board accompanied by the constant shuffling of plastic bags and the jingle of coins in pockets can be better than any playlist on your iPod. But that’s just the soundtrack.
Photo by Derek Lactaoen
The scenery boasts juicy, round, red tomatoes that call out to be thrown into a salsa, avocadoes arranged in pyramids more perfect than the Egyptians could have imagined and flower bouquets so fragrant that they intoxicate mesmerized onlookers for minutes at a time.
Welcome to the Ortuzar Feria.
Every Sunday, this market buzzes with the sounds of feet shuffling over trampled lettuce and merchants shouting things like “One kilo of avocados!” or “Six tomatoes!” Located in a sprawling residential section of Ñuñoa, a few blocks from any bus route, the market wakes up with the sun every Sunday and plays host to an array of fruits, vegetables, flowers and people.
By noon the Ortuzar Feria is in full swing as vendors shout to one another and make jokes as shoppers look skeptically at the produce until they find the perfect avocado or head of lettuce.
“The most important thing about a feria is that everyone is nice,” said Alicia Vargas as her husband bagged a few kilos of potatoes. “Here [at Ortuzar], everyone is nice and respectful.”
Vargas has been going to Feria Ortuzar every week for two years since moving to Ñuñoa from Quinta Normal. She said that it’s by far her favorite feria because it’s very close for a lot of Ñuñoa residents, the prices are good and you get a lot of attention.
Ortuzar workers will let you pick each and every one of your 2 kilos of lemons instead of choosing for you. At other ferias, for example, if you ask for 2 kilos of lemons, you'll indiscriminately get the lemons on the top of the pile.
Vargas likes Ortuzar because she can get those 2 kilos of lemons for a few hundred pesos, a steal in comparison to what she would pay at her closest Lider.
Other unbelievable deals include a kilo of apples (normally 5-7) for CP$300 (US$0.55) or less, a large bundle of cilantro for una gamba (CP$100 (US$0.18)) and several kilos of potatoes for CP$500 (US$0.91).
The market’s small size helps support an intense feeling of community. It stretches for just one block, but manages to pack in a sense of community that is often hard to find on the streets of Santiago. The preassembled coverings at the market mean that on rainy mornings, a Ñuñoa shopper can still get their fresh produce without getting too wet. In addition, the extended sidewalk, thanks to the municipality, means shoppers don’t have to dodge vehicles while they shop.
The personalized attention and sense of
community draws many Santiaguinos to the feria. But, as a simple excuse for something to do midday on a fomingo (“lame Sunday”), going to the feria is a nice break from boredom, studying or nursing the worst hangover.
Far from the experience one might find at their local mega supermarkets Ekono or Lider, going to the Ortuzar Feria is its own adventure. Amidst the whirl of people, food, vendors and sounds, the Ortuzar Feria will have you among strangers, shaking hands, smiling, laughing and eating like nowhere else in Santiago.
Av. Ortuzar, directly behind Colegio Calasanz, cross street Av. Montenegro.
Every Sunday, around 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
To get there:
Metro Irrarrazaval- take bus D03, 227, 403 or 403c East (towards La Cordillera) until Av. Montenegro (2nd stop after Plaza Ñuñoa), walk 5-6 blocks North.
Metro Simon Bolivar- Cross Av. Ossa and take bus D18 west down Av. Echiñique until Ortuzar. It’s also within a 15-minute walk from the Metro.
Don’t live close to Ñuñoa? Check out Ferias de Santiago to find a feria in your comuna.