A final post in this series about the notorious Belen Market of Iquitos, Peru. Our intrepid reporter Linda Schwefel sees the dirty truth and outwits a would-be mugger.
Here was life with a capitol L: produce ripens and is awash with fruit flies right next to a sleeping baby. A dog digs through the all-pervasive trash, while the clouds of buzzards circle high overhead, with dozens more watching from their perches in the stalls. A smartly dressed young woman barters for a glistening mess of chicken entrails, while holding the hand of her toddler son. He pees onto the stall's table legs while his mother waits for her purchase to be wrapped up;
she touches the bag and her fingers are at once shiny with grease and drippings. Her red lacquered fingernails gleam in the dim light as she helps her young son pull up his pants, then she touches his pretty plump cheek, leaving a viscous pink smear on his dusky brown skin. It was at once vibrant, tantalizing and appalling.
Throughout the market, I was warned by the vendors and shoppers "Cuidado," pantomiming holding my camera tightly. I didn't take their warnings seriously until it was too late: I felt a violent tug at my throat. A middle aged man had hold of my camera and dragged me for several yards by the strap wrapped around my neck. Canon quality won the day, however, and he abandoned the target and ran. When he got about 20 feet away, he turned, grinned at me and shrugged as if to say "You win some, you lose some."
Written by Linda Schwefel
Photo by Barbara Bennett
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Illegal Wildlife: The Shame of Belen