In the south of the city, an entire block between calles Tarata and Pulucayo on the east side of Avenida San Martín, is occupied by the massive covered street market known as La Cancha (“walled enclosure” in Quechua), where campesinos and merchants from throughout the region come to buy and sell their produce. Wandering through the market’s sprawling labyrinth of stalls is the best way to get a feel for the vibrant commercial culture of the city and the surrounding area: the buzz of Quechua fills the air and the traditional costumes of different campesino groups are very much in evidence, in particular the straw sombreros and bright-coloured pollera skirts of the women of the Cochabamba Valley. This is effectively one massive clearing house for agricultural produce, and the range of foodstuffs on sale reflects the full diversity of Bolivia’s different ecological zones. You’ll also find pretty much anything else poor Bolivians might need: sacks, rope, ironmongery, medicinal herbs, ritual items for making offerings to Pachamama and the mountain gods, and cheap manufactured goods. La Cancha has overflowed its original bounds, and now spreads across Avenida San Martìn onto the disused railway, and northwest to occupy another entire block between Tarata and Punata, an area now known as the Mercado Inca Llajta (“Inca Town” in Quechua).

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