Friday, October 16, 2009
In nearly every Brazilian city, small or large, traditional open-air food markets co-exist with supermarkets and hypermarkets. In any particular locale, only one day a week is "market-day". In my neighbourhood in Fortaleza, on Brazil's Northeast coast, Friday is market day, and it's held in front of a historic iron market structure from the end of the 19th Century. The actual iron market, called Mercado dos Pinhões (the word pinhões means "pine nuts" in Portuguese, but I've been unable to discover why the market is so called), is now a municipal arts and culture centre, and the Friday market has moved into the plaza in front.
The iron market structure was constructed in Orleans, France, shipped to Brazil, and assembled in Fortaleza. It opened on April 17, 1897, and was double the present-day size. The open iron-work structure was perfect for Fortaleza's tropical heat, as it allowed the breeze to flow freely through the market. The iron work was highly ornamented in the style of the period, and art-nouveau stained glass was employed under the iron roof.
Today, the Mercado dos Pinhões is a protected historical structure. It no longer serves its original purpose, but its presence gives the Friday market a beauty and gravity it would not have in the absence of the iron lace of the old market sitting squarely on its plaza.