Small Farmer’s Fair in Caracas Tantamount to Indigenous Ancestry, Resistance

By Alvaro Sanchez Cordero  –  Apr 3, 2022

Anyone visiting Caracas would immediately notice the abundance of both fresh and colorful fruits and vegetables all over the city.

Vendors in just about every other corner of Caracas lay their farm products on handmade stalls where they display several kinds of mangoes, as well as huge avocados, tangerines, tomatoes and Venezuelan papayas, which are called “lechosa” here, a lot juicier than papayas from other countries. 

No doubt this is the result of a huge expansion and increase in food production in Venezuela. 

Nonetheless, the sale of fruits and vegetables across Caracas pales in comparison to the ultimate exhibition and trade of homegrown food at Parque Los Caobos, near the center of the capital city. 

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I am referring to the iconic, seven-year-old “Feria Conuquera” that brings together once a month a community of hard-working, imaginative, urban agricultural entrepreneurs who don’t just sell their products for an incredibly affordable price. They also share their wisdom, while easily engaging consumers in conversations that range from tips on how to grow certain types of food to networking and advertisement. 

In addition to the regular sale of nicely grown agricultural products, you would see at the “Feria Conuquera” elaborated – added value – items such as hot sauces, several types of honey, breads, sweets, coffee, tea bags and chocolate, among other delectable items. 

Indeed, it is local and community production – embedded in both urban and rural agriculture – that has ultimately staved off the aggressive economic warfare and blockade against Venezuela for the past six years or so.

I consider myself lucky, for spending most of my time at my last visit to “Feria Conuquera” with a very good friend of mine, and such a brilliant mind, Giselle Perdomo, whose beautiful four-year-old daughter, Yara, is my goddaughter. While at Giselle’s stall, I ate coffee bread and a sandwich and drank sugar cane juice (guarapo), all prepared by her with such enthusiasm and earnestness. Giselle is one of the founding mothers of the “Feria Conuquera”.

“Feria Conuquera” literally means “Small Farmers’ Fair.” However, the meaning of a Venezuelan “conuco” goes beyond a smallholding plot. The “conuco” is the place where the First Indigenous Nations in Venezuela practiced different forms of planting and harvest. 

Therefore, spirituality and ancestry play a very important role in the economic production of Venezuelan “conucos.” This is so not only because of the history of resistance by the Indigenous people in terms of preserving their ancestral deeds to their lands but also because – contrary to the evolution of large estates – conuco harvesting implies a healthier and organic form of food production. 

Also, true to the original spirit of “conuco” farming, just about all vendors from the “Feria Conuquera” would gather at the end of their journey and barter their products, just like the original Indigenous people – and generally Venezuelans from the countryside – would do to maximize their work and avoid fiat transactions that tend to exclude small farmers in the first place. 

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When I told my friend José Roberto Duque – both a prominent and prolific Venezuelan writer and researcher – that I was going to the “Feria Conuquera,” he immediately advised me to get in touch with Carolina Castro and her partner Freddy Muñoz, small farmers from La Guaira, who would be there. 

After a handshake and a small introduction, Carolina kindly gifted me with some beautiful green plantains and a bunch of radishes. 

“You must come to our ‘conuco’ in La Guaira. It will be quite an experience,” said Carolina. 

Such openness, healthiness, solidarity, camaraderie and humanity, while purchasing food, cannot be found in your regular supermarket. 

 

 

Featured image: Coniqueros selling their products at Feria Conuquera Agroecologica in Los Caobos Park, Caracas. Photos: Alvaro Sanchez.

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