The old artisan market in San Jose, on Calle 13bis just west of the Plaza de Democracia and the national museum was a familiar feature for visitors and residents. The dark, crowded aisles were a part of the ‘tipico’ (typical) experience not unlike the famous bazaars of third world countries.
However, this piece of land was sought for other uses and the market itself suffered through 25 rainy seasons and overcrowding.
But now, after exploring other options for a site more comfortable and attractive, the market has moved into a new home on Avenida 6 and Calle 5.
The renovated building is in the heart of San Jose, across the street from the Plaza de las Garantias Sociales and the huge Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) building and diagonal from the historic Colegio de Señoritas. The pedestrian boulevard on Avennia 4 is just a street away. The new market opened on March 19 of this year.
Signs and artwork on the facade make it easy to find and the wide open entrance invites everybody in … whether using wheelchairs, strollers or high heels. The wide aisles mean no bumping into people or stands of merchandise while trying to find just the right gift to take home or the perfect piece for the living room. Because it is enclosed the market is protected against the rainy season and the hot sun of summer. In fact, it’s a great place to weather out the afternoon showers or the heat of March and April.
The stalls are still crammed with artwork, T-shirts, plushy stuffed monkeys and sloths, handcrafted jewelry and traditionally painted woodenware, little wooden and ceramic animals, key chains, beach towels, skirts, boxes with parrots or butterflies painted in brilliant colors, handbags and hammocks, all offered for tourists and nationals alike. And the creators are there to show and explain, and to sell you a sample of their work.
“The market is one way of supporting local artists,” said Orliden Garbanzo, market administrator. “Sales are up and ninety percent of our customers are tourists.”
There are 88 stalls and the sellers agree that the new market is more comfortable and sales are better. Although most of the articles in the market are crafted locally, some things are imported, Garbanzo explained.
Bathrooms are another important addition.
The new market is part of the city of San Jose’s plan to spruce up the city under the slogan “SJO Vive” or San Jose lives.
However, many sellers were reluctant to make the move from the old site. It was close to two major museums and the congressional buildings, plus the Parque Nacional and the old liquor factory, now home to the ministry of culture and the gallery of modern art.
The old market opened in 1991 as a place where various craft and souvenir sellers could sell their products in one central place. The location, behind the National Museum attracted tourists. But the building was looking a little worn and sales during rainy weather dropped considerably. It was time to find a new home.
The artisan market is open every day from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. With the great variety of Tico arts and crafts available you are sure to leave with something new.