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Mexican markets Friday, May 04, 2007

Anne and Alberto buy chicken at the market in Ocoyoacac Apr. 25.

The markets of Latin America are one of the more distinct differences between that culture and North America's. Unlike the sterile supermarkets found in Canada or the United States, the outdoor markets in Mexico are colorful, crowded, and somewhat less concerned with hygiene.

My mother, who volunteers part-time as a community food advisor (teaching people about nutrition and hygiene), couldn't get over seeing the meat and fish hanging in unrefrigerated open-air stalls with dogs and chickens running around between the people.

And yes, from time to time, there are problems. But most of the time there aren't, and it makes life a whole lot easier (and cheaper) for the people there. It is a good example of the general difference between life in Latin America and the U.S. or Canada: There, they operate with a much lower margin of safety, whether that be on the roads, home construction, or food safety.

And, along with that, they accept a much higher degree of personal responsibility for their actions. They won't sue if they break their leg because of a hole in the sidewalk, even if it didn't have any barricades. (Even if they were in the right, the party at fault might not be able to pay, and even if they could, it could take years to go through the courts, so it's not worth it.)

For better or for worse, Mexico (and much of Latin America) is much closer to a truly capitalist society than the United States.

(right) Anne poses Apr. 25 with a popular brand of bag that seems to be designed just for her.