El Valle is a good place to shop, if…
photos and note by Eric Jackson
El Valle’s public market compares well in the genre, but if you take it in isolation you miss the town’s advantages and perhaps there are better markets in the area.
If handicrafts, especially of the finest artistic quality are your thing, do make it to the ALAPA convention center in Panama City this July 26 through 30. You’ll find a much bigger selection than in El Valle, and works in the various regional styles by the best artisans from around the country. The public market in Penonome has hand-crafted things, too, but not as good of a selection as in El Valle. If the public market doesn’t have what you’re looking for, however, go up or down the street because some of the other shops just might. If you have a peasant mentality like the editor’s and a budget to match, the utilitarian bias of the El Valle public market’s selection is likely to suit you.
Shopping for food? The supermarkets in El Valle tend to be a bit more expensive than those in the towns along the Pan-American Highway. After all, things from the outside world have to be trucked in over winding roads more than 20 kilometers from the nation’s main drag and that gets added into consumer prices. But the rich volcanic soil of the ancient crater that is El Valle and the near-constant bajareque — mist coming off of the mountains, makes for the cultivation of a lot of produce of qualities and quantities that are profitable to export to markets in the rest of the country. You will find things that are out of season elsewhere in season in El Valle.
Are you planting to decorate your upscale property with just the right flowers, or are you more of a subsistence fruit and vegetable gardener? For the plant selection, the El Valle public market skews toward the decorative. If you want seedlings for a wide variety of fruit trees — or many other sorts of trees — check out El Nispero across town, or many another smaller-time plant nurseries in the area. But don’t rule out finding just the right medicinal plant, or fruit tree, or vegetable, whose roots or seeds can be obtained at the market and sown on your property.
You want to see the better selections of everything, and also don’t mind the bigger crowds? Go to the El Valle public market on a Sunday.
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