El Pais Goes Behind The Scenes at Ecuador’s San Roque Market

In a recent article for El Pais, photojournalist Edu León captured some early-morning perspectives on Ecuador’s famed San Roque Market– a traditional indigenous food market where over 3,000 vendors sell native produce and spices unique to the region. Anything cultivated in Ecuador’s jungles, coasts, and mountainous regions are for sale here seven days a week, with Saturday being the busiest and most popular day to visit. For those visiting Quito for the first time (or for the first time as a foodie), the market is not to be missed.


Shipping and redistribution of produce is a near-constant operation at this destination market, which is one of the best in all of South America. Vendors tend to specialize in single products (like the woman who specializes in tomatoes, above) as they dice, wash, and hand-sort everything from onions to beans to flowers before sale, ensuring that all product stands up to indigenous growers’ standards of quality.

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For many, farming is a family affair, with many teens and young adults pitching in during the harvest in both the orchard and at the market. While individual crates of produce can weigh up to 90 kilos, local “cargadores” help carry and distribute product to its home within the market’s chaotic ecosystem once it arrives. Mangos, apples, pineapples, bananas, and citrus are among the coveted favorites amid international tourists, who come to Quito in pursuit of avocados and bananas (Ecuador is one the world’s leading suppliers of both fruits).

Visitors to San Roque should keep an eye out for tree tomatoes (tomates), mini bananas (oritos), Ecuadorian blackberry (mora, which is larger and more tart than what is available in the U.S.), taxo (banana passionfruit, which looks a lot like breadfruit), guanábana (also known as soursop), and uvilla (ground cherry, also known as gooseberry). Roses, of course, are also de rigueur: Ecuadorian roses are a staple of the global flower industry, yielding over $600 million worth of exports every year.

San Roque Street Market is located at Mariscal Sucre in Quito, Ecuador (area code EC170111). 

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