Authentic Caribbean: Mercado Santurce, Puerto Rico

Part social, part practical, the market in Santurce has been attracting Sanjuaneros for decades


Open-air markets are ubiquitous in the Caribbean. Every town, seaside village and mountain hamlet plays host to this particular form of local commerce. Some are formal and permanent, while others are pop-ups that come and go on weekends, holidays or special occasions. The market in San Juan’s Santurce neighborhood has been a lasting fixture for decades, and remains the preferred spot for chefs and home cooks to buy fresh produce. It’s an easy drive from Condado and just 20 minutes from Old San Juan. Here, local farmers deliver fresh produce daily, and vendors set up displays in their personalized spaces decorated with family photos and keepsakes. In addition to fruit and vegetables, long-time vendors sell everything from hats to lace, wooden carvings, festival masks and leather goods, flowers, local remedies and prepared dishes. Many shoppers include breakfast or lunch in the outing, and spend hours socializing while making purchases. During the day, the place is humming with shoppers, but come evening the music starts and the crowds increase. On the weekends, the area known as La Placita buzzes with laughter as people drop in and out of bars and restaurants. Later in the evening when the music kicks, the dancing begins. Inside restaurants and bars and out on the patios, the plaza is packed with salsa dancers from the neighborhood and around San Juan.