As I’ve written before, the shopping options here in Boquerón are extremely limited. There are three small tiendas with a very limited inventory made up mainly of cold drinks, some very basic staples and junk food. There are also two larger establishments known generically as “Chinos.”
They have that name since most throughout Panama are owned by Chinese immigrants, some who have been in the Republic for generations having first migrated to work on the French-built railroad and later on the Canal.
All of the supermarkets have produce sections and the one at El Rey in David comes close in size and quality to anything found at most Publix and Winn-Dixie stores in Florida. Their prices are pretty similar, too.
Most people, at least here in the countryside, buy their produce at roadside stands and many have bargains unheard of in the States. For example, a large, wonderfully fragrant, juicy pineapple generally be had for a buck. While none of these stands can rival the splendor of the open-air markets in Antibes an Nice, France, the quality, if not the quantity, stands up to the comparison quite well.
Here in Boqueron there is another alternative and it comes to you and the prices are the envy of state-side residents. Twice a week a small pickup truck rolls down our street with its loudspeaker announcing its arrival and the prices he offers. Of course the selection is limited but how can you beat four pounds of spuds for a buck?
Today I made a score with another truck that came selling fresh seafood. Panama, being bordered to the north and south by the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean respectively has an abundance of fresh seafood. When I lived in Chalmette, just outside of New Orleans, I used to buy fresh, unsorted, heads still on, shrimp for a buck a pound. Naturally with the heads still on you’re paying for weight you can’t eat. In the supermarkets in Fort Lauderdale I used to think I was getting a good deal when I could pick up a pound of shrimp at less than seven dollars a pound and these were generally heads-on as well.
Today, off of the truck I was able to buy a whole pound of tails-only shrimp for the unheard of price of $2.75! Richard’s going to eat good tonight.