HAVANA (AP) — Trucks crammed with produce travel hundreds of miles from every corner of Cuba each weekday to form long lines at the 114th Street Market — a teeming open-air bazaar on Havana’s outskirts that has become a key hub for getting farm products to people in the capital.
The market’s bustle is a result of economic reforms begun in 2010 by President Raul Castro, which includes relaxing rules on private farming. In another reform, Cuban authorities recently authorized small farmers to also sell directly to hotels and tourist centers beginning this month.
Produce is brought in by growers themselves and by transportation specialists who make a living by buying crops far away and hauling them to Havana, the island’s biggest and most important market.
Some sellers show up with the trunks of their 1950s Chevrolets stuffed with garlic, onions and other produce.
Depending on the growing season, 44 types of fruits and vegetables are on offer in the muddy, truck-packed expanse, from pineapples and melons to tomatoes and a starchy local plant called malanga.
Restaurateurs and street vendors shop there. So do individual consumers, families and even groups of neighbors who pool their money to buy in bulk.
“Here it’s always cheaper than in the markets or kiosks” in the city’s crowded neighborhoods, said Argelio Mendez, a government official who runs the market.
Miguel Guerrero, a 21-year-old who farms in Mayabeque province, said he leaves home around midnight to queue up hours before the market opens in hopes of claiming a choice spot to sell his wares.
Exhausted from being on the road all night, drivers grab a few winks wherever they can — atop their cabs, on rickety cots, even in wheel wells.