Vancouver Needs Street Markets: the Goods and the Spirits
Vancouver is known for its beauty and multiculturalism, yet a key indicator of a truly multicultural city is found in its street markets; a space that Vancouver is noticeably lacking. Take for example London’s Camden Market, Bangkok’s Chatuchak, Marrakech’s (Morocco) Jemaa El Fnaa, Melbourne’s Queen Victoria, Hong Kong’s Temple Street Market, or Venice’s Rialto Market, and the list goes on; then wonder why not in Vancouver?
Of course Vancouver has spaces such as Granville Island Market and Richmond’s Night Market; however these spaces are not readily affordable for people to sell their goods, nor do they uniformly offer products within the purchasing power of low-income residents or represent the true spirit of street markets where self-crafted goods are sold along with curated finds outside of factory-manufactured goods.
Vancouver needs street markets which allow low-income residents and low-income vendors to be part of Vancouver’s economic and cultural experience. A place where you can go any time of the year and directly interact with the makers of the product you are buying. A place where you can learn about histories and traditions of Vancouver, British Columbia and even Canada as a whole; a place where a First Nation senior would tell you all about First Nations art and spiritual traditions such as smudging. That is what we are missing in Vancouver; street markets that give you a really sense of life of the locals, culture and history of the place.
Luckily, a grassroots movement launched what could possibly be the best opportunity Vancouver has ever had to create the types of markets I have described above. Amazingly, but perhaps not shockingly, this movement started in a neighborhood many would associate with poverty and in need of gentrification: the Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighborhood. Spearheading this movement in the DTES is the Street Market Society which currently operates three small market locations in the neighborhood covering all seven days of the week.
I’m aware that many people outside of the DTES community have not visited the markets, so please allow me share some of my experiences at these markets. I hope this will inspire you to visit these unique markets and join the efforts to promote this type of markets across this city.
Although I do not live in the DTES, I enjoy spending time at these markets for so many reasons. For example, it was at the Street Market at 62 East Hastings where I had my first experience of smudging (a cleansing herbal smoke bath practiced by many First Nations groups in North America). One of the First Nations vendors wholeheartedly invited me to partake in this ritual while explaining what it is all about. It was at also this street market location where for the first time I was introduced to dream-catchers (another spiritual beliefs of capturing good spirits) which were made on site.
In another DTES street market encounter at 501 Powell Street, I had the opportunity to interact with an ex-mining superintendent who had travelled extensively in North and South America and now vends at the market. He proudly described his unique items collected over a period of nearly 30 years. Clay pots, picture frames, pictures and paintings, which resembled a different era were just some of the antiques this vendor had.
Below I share with you some of the unique items found at the DTES street markets.
What I am trying to say is that, street markets like those already in the DTES provide a very unique market experience beyond a typical shopping experience; they provide a gateway into the culture and lives of the locals. It is important that we cherish and support them to make our city vibrant and more economically, socially and culturally inclusive.
Daniel Mundeva is Masters of Arts student at Simon Fraser University. His greatest passion is people, development and the environment. He strongly believes that creating a society where everyone feels valued, supported and respected is crucial to ensure social and economic stability. Coming from a developing country and humble background, Daniel understands not only the experiences and struggles of marginalized people but also their potential to succeed when given the opportunity. His experiences span from community development to environment sustainability, with his works being conducted in three different continents. He is joining the LEDlab team as an intern to support the improvement and expansion of the Downtown Eastside Street Market. In his position, he hopes to improve the breakeven of the market and strengthen relations amongst all stakeholders, namely, vendors, shoppers, community members, City of Vancouver officials, and the Law enforcement units. He is an avid hiker (having hiked the Westcoast trail on the Vancouver Island and has also summited mount Kilimanjaro three times) and a recreational biker.