The Americas: Matriarchs of the Market

She is a woman of extraordinary complexity. She fights like a man, and swears and drinks like one too. Her love affairs are legion; yet in her ample bosom, religion burns with a white flame. She thrives on a noisy 15-hour workday. In Bolivia, she is called "half-breed"; in Paraguay, "burro rider"; in Haiti, "Madame Sarah." Everyone knows her as the market woman, the indispensable harridan of commerce who easily ranks as the No. 1 retailer to Latin America's lower classes.

Miniature Macy's. Most market women started out as simple farm wives...

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