Cayes-Jacmel Grand Marche

The grand marche of Cayes-Jacmel occurs once a week on Saturdays at the midway point between the town of Kabik and the city of Jacmel. To begin the weekend farmers and salespeople congregate along the coastal route spreading outward, selling whatever they produce or have invested in to resell. Under wise advice we arrived early, having been told that traffic would be less dense circa 7am, so that we could sense the layout and avoid the overwhelming gridlock of the bazaar’s busiest hours. The market is a long walk from Plateau Tessere, but a short ride on the back of a motorcycle taxi. The journey cost just 30gourdes (helmet not included), and was enjoyable with the midmorning sun behind us and the wind on our faces.

The market is where one buys provisions for the next week, making it crucial to buy whats not yet ripe. Over the course of the next week while nature runs its course the vegetables & fruits soften to perfection and arrive at their full color. Some people buy huge stalks of green bananas to hang in their house. They turn yellow and guests can pull them down for a quick bite as there are plenty to go around. This is a unique and tranquil form of hospitality transforming the banana stalk to a kind of olive branch to friends and the community.

Navigating the marche takes considerable expertise. Knowing what vendor to trust for tomatoes vs. string beans, where to find them, what price is reasonable for a given amount…and more variables than I know I’m sure. It is a reactive environment where you have to be keen and resolute in your decisiveness. Lydia passed her haggling exam, which was administered by two older women selling straw hats. We worked them down from $5US to $3.50US, almost were kicked by a disoriented mule halfway through, and walked away alive with a cool Karnaval hat in hand.

Around 8 we bumped into Madam Andreline, who is Sophie’s cool and our official market guide. She led us to her cabinet of sellers, demonstrating her knowledge of the market and poised while calmly negotiating and buying then stashing her purchases under a friends table. Andreline’s presence was a calming force field for us as the colors, sounds, animals and bodies increased. By 9am the marche has exploded into a galaxy of unmanageable activity. It seemed that the number of people and vendors had quadrupled in about 15 minutes. Dodging cars, tap-tap buses and moto-taxis quickly became part of the game so keeping our ears as open as our eyes was literally a lifesaver. Within the chaos there were static moments that entranced both of us. Most captivating were the women styled in their big disk-shaped straw has, and brilliantly colored rolled skirts. Each acted the master of her domain whether in selling or buying, and when engaged in bargaining it always seemed that they knew best.

At its apex…

Effortless Panache + Haitian Vogue + (Canal Street x Union Sq Farmers Market x Rush Hour) + Petting zoo = Cayes-Jacmel Marche

Although the market is an excellent and thrilling experience there are certain opportunities we noticed to really have a constructive impact in the community. After the day of selling closes and the market returns to its dormant state there is definitely a lot of biomass either chucked into the river running beneath the marche or left on the road to deteriorate. By placing a container with a list of instructions, Terra Fantastica could recoup the biomass and remove lots of disease hosting organic materials from the Cayes-Jacmel road. This is definitely a simple solution to helping the community’s internal and aesthetic well-being by cleaning up the water people bathe in, the road where they walk and live, and providing less garbage for domestic animals to consume or be exposed to. With the proper monetary incentives people could dump a certain weight in biomass and have exponentially aided the area while also putting some Kob (cash) in their pockets for the next week’s grand marche.