Best of Slow Journalism: Getting by in Nicaragua’s informal economy

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

Mercado Oriental in Nicaragua’s capital Managua is the biggest commercial centre in Central America. Its 225 acres see about 50,000 workers and 80,000 customers every day, with monthly sales topping $100 million. “You can buy everything in the Oriental,” writes journalist Douglas Haynes, “from a pound of rice to the service of a prostitute to a pet iguana. If it’s not for sale there, Nicaraguans say, then you can’t buy it anywhere.”

Many of the workers employed at Oriental are self-employed and part of Nicaragua’s informal economy. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, two thirds of the world’s workforce will be informally employed by 2020. In the latest issue of online travel journalism platform Compass Cultura, Haynes shows how this statistic translates into the real world by spending a day with one of Oriental’s vendors, 33-year-old Dayani Baldelomar Bustos.

Mango, Mango!‘ starts with Dayani setting up her goods in the labyrinth of alleyways at 7am and then guides us through her daily routine. By describing her interactions with customers and other sellers in the market, Haynes exposes the inner workings of the self-regulating Oriental, which is said to be the most dangerous place in Nicaragua. Simultaneously, it provides a fascinating insight into how people get by on earning as little as $4.50 a day.

‘Mango, Mango!’ is just one of many excellent long-form and off-the-beaten-path travel articles featured on Compass Cultura. We recommend you have a look for yourself – you can read the article here.


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