Every Saturday, starting at 6 a.m., ranchers, farmers and small vendors arrive at the municipal market in San Rafael Cedros, in the department of Cuscatlán, to sell their pigs, livestock, chickens, dogs, goats, and even show horses. Some come in trucks full of animals; others, in public transportation, and some by foot.
Jose Cornejo, 30, shows his money that he’ll do business with this workday. He is a resident of San Rafael Cedros and each Saturday he arrives at 4:30 a.m. to look for the best offer to buy and sell pigs. “Here, it’s cash for cash. This Bitcoin thing will alter this business because it’s complicated to adapt to that currency,” Cornejo says, claiming he makes about $100 during a day of business at the tiangue.
At the tiangue, there are designated places for certain types of animals. In the section for horses, small groups gather and walk from one side to another to negotiate for their animals; others mount and trot along a cement path to show their strength; some just kneel against a wall until they get a client. In the middle of the sound of gallops, whinnies, and lashes, a man danced with his Peruvian horse valued at $3,500.
Máveric Sánchez, 15, a resident of Tonacatepeque, arrived at 7 a.m. to sell his puppies, four small dogs of two and a half months, which he says are a mix of Pitbull and French bulldog. It wasn’t until 9 a.m. that he sold one for $10. Máveric knows the business. Since he was little, he’s been coming with his father to buy and sell livestock in the tiangue at San Rafael Cedros. “Today I’m only here to sell, but if someone gives me a chicken, I’ll give them a puppy, but the chicken has to be free-range,” Máveric says with his basket in hand.
A trader moves a litter of pigs that he bought in the tiangue. He paid $20 for each one and he will try to profit $5 for each after reselling them at other tiangues throughout the week in the municipalities of El Tránsito and Nueva Guadalupe in the San Miguel department; Aguilares, in the San Salvador department; Ilobasco, Cabañas department; and Santiago Nonualco, La Paz department.
Like in San Rafael Cedros, there are other tiangues in different municipalities all during the week. Their attendees discuss work tools, machinery, animal breeds, food, fertilizers, and crops. It’s a gala where all the ranchers show off their best boots, hats, and extravagant cowboy shirts, and where the small restaurants surrounding the tiangues make their own profits.
Teófilo García, 60, has worked for more than 18 years at the tiangue. Each Saturday he travels in public transportation with his miniature chickens, which sometimes perch on his shoulder. He charges $10 to $15 a bird. He comes from the municipality of San Martin. Teófilo assures that he has bartered when he can’t sell his birds. “I have also exchanged chickens for goats, ducks, and turkeys, and one time I exchanged a turkey for a parakeet,” he says.
The tiangue and its animals fill up more than five blocks around the market. Their owners have to mark them with spray paint or tie them with rope so they aren’t confused when they mix with those from another trader. Carelessness has already caused some clashes.
The weekly gathering of farmers, campesinos, vendors, and ranchers also benefits those searching for income. In the middle of this crowd, a merchant has set up his stall for rope, machetes, knit bags, boots, and hats, all small tools, but of great use in the daily activities for agriculture and livestock farming.
Josué Castro, 15, is a livestock dealer. Every Saturday, he arrives with his father to buy and sell. Josué is a resident of the rural zone of San Rafael Cedros and he takes advantage of the weekend to earn about $40, which covers his weekly expenses for school.
“Then you don’t want it? I already told you how much I’ll give you,” said Wílber (second from the left, with money in hand) to a seller who walked a goat through the whole tiangue. “The other one will give you thirty-five,” he repeated. The seller responded: “No, and you know why I don’t give them to you, because the other day I got shorted. Add five more, if you want.” For Wílber, 30, there was no deal that morning. For the last 20 years he’s travelled every Saturday from the municipality of San Jorge in San Miguel to try to make a living. “The truth is that I don’t know about this Bitcoin thing and I don’t even know what to tell you. We don’t know how we’re going to use it.”
*Translated by Anna-Catherine Brigida