Life in El Mercado Central


As manager of El Mercado Central in León, Nicaragua, Xiomara Delgado wakes up at 4:30 a.m. every single day. After helping prepare her children for school, she arrives at 7 a.m. for a 10-hour work day – sometimes even longer.

During an average day, Delgado, 42, will walk around El Mercado Central, talking to the vendors and making sure the market is clean for customers.

Nicknamed “the tourist market,” Delgado said the most popular goods that are sold range from traditional Nicaraguan clothing, cacao, fruits, vegetables, pastry, snacks, and handcrafts.

There are two different areas in El Mercado Central. Block A hosts 200 different vendors, while Block B hosts 213, according to Delgado.

These vendors begin their day at 6 a.m. and El Mercado Central is open all week. Vendors can keep their items overnight and close their section by covering their goods.

The weekend is a big time for vendors here because people aren’t usually working and they have more time to shop.
— Xiomara Delgado, owner of El Mercado Central

Delgado said working in El Mercado Central is not an option but a necessity for most of the people selling there.

“If we have a space for someone to sell, we allow them to apply,” she said.

To be a vendor at El Mercado Central, applicants must present a copy of their ID and if there are no spaces available they are put on a waiting list until a space becomes available.

Vendors pay a daily 4-Cordoba tax, the equivalent of 14 U.S. cents, for a space to sell at El Mercado Central. Most of the vendors at the Mercado are women and have been working there for over 25 years, according to Delgado. These women who have been working for over 25 years and are 60 years old or over receive a government pension, meaning they are exempt from the tax.

Vendors can pay by the day or can pay every 15 days depending on what is easier for the vendor, according to Delgado.

Delgado said the majority of the vendors come every day, but the weekend is the busiest time of the week.

“The weekend is a big time for vendors here because people aren’t usually working and they have more time to shop,” she said.