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A Pampered Pollo

After two decades of sporadic instruction in Spanish, one of the few words I can readily remember is pollo (``po-yho''). Melodic in ways its English counterpart could never be, the word came to mind when I saw this image of a rather pampered pollo for sale in Chichicastenango, Guatemala.

Rarely does one encounter a chicken treated as well as this one, cradled by its anonymous seller in the same way a mother might support her offspring. Wrapped in one of the scarves Guatemalan Indians use for everything from carrying children to adorning heads, this bird is part of a much bigger and, if imaginable, more colorful marketplace visited by staff photographer Melanie Stetson Freeman.

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Despite all the eye-pleasers provided here - bright colors, varied textures, a patient pollo - the items that are missing are almost more intriguing. Where is the human face to tell us what the presumably female seller is thinking? Does she find it hard to part with the fowl, as one would cling to a favorite pet? Or is she emotionless, preparing for the extensive bargaining so common to the market? Since her face is absent, our window on her feelings is closed. The photographer has provided only her firmly entwined hands to know her by.

Just the opposite is true of her feathered companion, who has a face but no feet. It is hard to tell if he put up a fuss while being packaged for the occasion, but he is motionless in the instant captured by the camera. We are left with a portrait of what is bright and salable in a country where adverse conditions often suggest less festive and enjoyable subjects.

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