Feira de São Joaquim

This was life at the open market Feira de São Joaquim (link in Portuguese) in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. It used to be chaotic market where people from the slums bought their groceries, but it no longer exists in this form since it’s now being “cleaned up” for the World Cup.

It is one of the largest open markets in Brazil and its history goes back hundreds of years to the times when Salvador was the slaving capital of South America. The vast majority of Salvador’s people, who live in slums, are not allowed inside the city’s new shopping malls. So this has been the key place for the poorer 85 percent of the population to buy their food.

In 2011, I set out with a local photographer and shot over a period of six weeks. Two weeks after we finished, the police carried out a large raid in the market. They captured more than 60 drug dealers and other petty criminals. Soon later, the market was shut down completely.

Today, the planned renovation is stalled (link in Portuguese), and what was originally sold as a cleanup effort that would improve the quality of life for the people who do business there has instead scattered the workers and former vendors across the city.

Now, many of these people are unemployed, or struggling to scratch out a living. Those who held out hope for the reopening of the market are now faced with the stark reality that, after almost three years, the “seven stage plan” for revitalization hasn’t even left stage one.

The vendors have staged protests and were eventually permitted an audience with the local government. Officials blamed unions and planning difficulties.

A selection of photos from this series was published by VICE magazine.

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