The Fruit Square of Caldas da Rainha returned on a rainy day and marked by the division of opinions between those who preferred to remain in a closed space and those who wanted to return to under coloured awnings.
“I want to sell, whether it is here or at Expoeste, it doesn’t matter to me,” says Sandra Silvestre, who has been a saleswoman for the past 11 years in the same square where she helped her mother, who sold green soup there for half a century.
But the indifference does not last long and at the same time that she is cutting the cabbage for soup there, she admits that she “already missed” the market on the centenary tray that the covid-19 pandemic forced her to abandon in March.
In April, the chamber transferred to Expoeste – Pavilhão de Feiras the market that, since the 15th century, has been held in the city center and has become a tourist attraction in the city.
Four months later, the sound of setting up the awnings began again at Praça da República, which started at 5:00 am, followed by the commotion that accompanies the arrival of the sellers, the unloading of products and the setting up of stalls.
Tradition sends that all this bustle is concluded until 07:00. But today, it was 9:00 am and the square was still sealed with 60 metal stalls decorated with images of vegetables, maintaining only three entrances, controlled by security guards who check who enters and ensure that they only do it after disinfecting their hands.
“We are in an exercise of adapting to the new rules”, explains the market councilor, Pedro Raposo, who from an early age checks details, listens to suggestions and assesses how the first day of the square is going.
The return “was not consensual”, says the councilman, remembering that there were petitions to defend the square in its place of origin and others to defend the permanence in Expoeste.
Luís and Fernanda Mendes returned in disgust to the place they have been visiting for more than 20 years.
He argued with the council that the square should remain “until the end of the year” at Expoeste, “where there are many more conditions and the stalls do not have to be set up daily”.
He argumed: “from the first day we are already working in the rain, the lack of parking keeps customers away and that from tourism and homesickness is very good, but it passes quickly and in a while it will be seen that the future can not be so good for us ”.
Beaten, but not convinced by the decision of the municipality, they are suggesting other spaces in the city to join this market and the fish market and other uses such as “selling typical cakes and handicrafts” in the centenary square.
On the other side of the board, António Pereira agrees that the return “was worse in terms of quality of life” and that “even the clientele has changed”. At Expoeste “they were more housewives”, on the board, “more restoration”, but it is certain that “for the first day, even with rain, it is going well and there are many people wanting to go back to the square”.
Florinda Figueiredo, a customer of the square for more than 40 years, explains this desire by the “feeling of freedom to buy outdoors” and by the “quality of the region’s products”. But, still extending the arguments in favor of the square in the center of the city to the conviction that “the local commerce has suffered a lot in the last months”.
“Not to mention the tourist value and the people, even foreigners, that this movement and color attract”, he adds.
Like Lídia and António Nunes, who live in Switzerland, and who for 15 years have spent holidays in the municipality of Caldas da Rainha, in the district of Leiria, and shop in the square.
“While we are here we come to the square almost every day”, they say, devaluing the lack of parking or the atmospheric rigors in favor of “a single market, with a life and a quality” that you cannot find elsewhere and that “has to be maintained as ex-tourist attractions ”.
Or was the square not one of the reasons that led them to fall in love with the city and to buy a holiday home, to which they return every year ”.
And they are not the only ones, underlines Lídia, adding that the parents “live in Lisbon and often come by bus, on purpose, to shop in this square”.
Until the end of August, sellers and buyers have guaranteed that in the usual square, new rules of distance and limited capacity to 100 people must now be complied with, controlled by security guards through a mobile application.
After that, councilor Pedro Raposo admits “to remove the bays and the board to be completely open again, at least from Monday to Thursday”. But that “will depend on how people behave in terms of respecting the standards relating to the pandemic.”
Today, rainy Wednesday and with 50 vendors on the board, “everything is going well”. But, says the councilman, “on Saturday, the busiest day and with about a hundred sellers, you will see what adjustments will be needed” so that the fruit square does not have to leave the city center again.