Mica by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
“I’ve suffered many hardships, and it hasn’t been easy, but I feel very blessed,” Nicolasa Garcia Claros explains at her verdulería (vegetable shop) in the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Like many vegetable shop owners across the country, Nicolasa, who goes by Mica, came to Argentina from Bolivia in search of work and a better life.
Mica veggies by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
From Cochabamba, Bolivia to Buenos Aires, Argentina
Mica is from Cochabamba, Bolivia. In 1993, she borrowed money from her aunt to travel to Buenos Aires. “The first few months were very difficult,” Mica recalls. “I missed my mom and my family who were all in Bolivia."
Mica y Jorge by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
For the first few years, Mica worked several jobs in construction, cleaning houses, and at vegetable shops. Then, she saved enough money to open her own shop, but it wasn’t successful. “I lost all my money and had to sell my earrings and rings,” Mica explains. But then, things turned around, and the shop started doing well. “I had a good relationship with clients and more people started coming and buying produce. We were able to sell and sell, and I bought a little truck to make trips to the Central Market.”
Gurruchaga and Padilla
About 20 years ago, Mica had the opportunity to open a shop in Villa Crespo, on the corner of Gurruchaga and Padilla. She has been running the verdulería in that location ever since, building her base of loyal clients.
Mica's familia by Laura Macías, Allie Lazar, and Mica Garcia Claros
Mica’s husband, Bacilio, along with her son and her nieces and nephews, Jorge, Tereza, and Cristian all work at the verdulería.
Mica's by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
A Day in the Life
Mica’s day usually starts at 4 am when she goes to the market with her husband. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays they go to Mercado Central while on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday they go to the Bolivian Market. Mica does all the shopping and her husband drives the truck.
Customers mica by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
Before the pandemic, the shop would open at 8 am until 9:30 pm. But now, they changed to 11 am until 8 pm. Mica says the busiest time is when they open, and then after 5 pm. The early afternoon is more relaxed and they have time to organize the shop.
Vegetables display by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
Organized and Stocked
It’s very important for the shop to always be organized and full of produce. Every ingredient has its spot, and when it's sold, another is restocked and put in its place.
Vegetable shop by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
Variety of Produce
“In Bolivia there isn’t much produce variety like in Argentina,” Mica says. For example, Bolivia doesn't have a wide selection of lettuce. In fact, Mica had never seen arugula until moving to Buenos Aires, where it’s very popular.
Peeling calabaza by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
Mica says that in the summer her clients buy lettuce, tomatoes, and fruit. In the winter, they buy ingredients to make soups and stews, like butternut squash, pumpkins, onions, potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Vegetables by Laura Macías, Allie Lazar, and Mica Garcia Claros
Mica’s shop has ingredients that many others don’t sell. The shop is filled with products like plantains, cilantro, spicy peppers, and tree tomatoes -- ingredients that aren’t common to the local cuisine and palate. “I am very curious so sometimes when I go to the market and don’t recognize something, I try it and bring it back. I usually can always sell it.”
Mica's cocina by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
Cooking At the Shop
There’s a tiny electric kitchen inside the vegetable shop and that’s where Mica cooks lunch for her family. “I make mashed potatoes, steaks, or milanesas. I love to cook. I love to make Bolivian dishes like peanut soup,” she explains.
Santos by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
Praying to the Saints
Mica says she suffered and cried a lot, but her faith in God is what keeps her going. Her saints protect her, and her shrine has saints from all over the world, many of which were given as gifts from clients.
Mica bike delivery by Laura Macías and Allie Lazar
Welcomed in Argentina
“Argentina has welcomed us. We have wonderful clients from here and from Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela," she says. “In Bolivia, there isn’t much work like there is in Argentina. There’s more movement in Buenos Aires, and it’s possible to have a more comfortable life."