Pic of the Week: Roadside Iguana Vendors in East Bank Demerara, Guyana

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Photographer: Martei Korley
Location: East Bank Demerara, Guyana

Pic of the Week was one of the original LargeUp features: A series of dispatches from co-founder, creative director and chief photographer Martei Korley, illuminating the richness of the Caribbean experience.

We were driving along the East Bank of the Demerara River, headed to Georgetown after a run to Cheddi Jagan International Airport, when our driver, Kurt, let out a sudden, high-pitched shout, and stopped the car short. “You gotta get a picture of this…”

What was it that he wanted us to see so badly? Iguanas. Specifically, these green iguanas you see above, for sale, on the side of the road.

Now, if you assumed — as you might, if you came from, say, the U.S.A. — that these luminous lizards were being sold as pets, you’d be dead wrong. Sure, you could buy one and keep him or her around your residence during the remainder of your time in Guyana. But you’d be a very rare exception to the rule. As in Trinidad and Belize, iguanas are a delicacy that fall into the category known locally as bushmeat, or wild meat. (Other popular sources of bushmeat include labba and agouti, both large rodents). Curried iguana is a common-enough, though not-exactly-ubiquitous dish in Guyana. You won’t find it on the menu at the Chinese restaurants and roti shops that predominate in Georgetown, but they are a staple of the roadside rum shops that are the watering holes for many Guyanese, especially outside of the city. It’s likely that the green mini-giants you see above would, eventually, have been picked up for use at one such establishment, if not for the purpose of a homemade stew.

We never managed to sample iguana during our time in G.T., but you can, even if you aren’t anywhere near the Demerara. Should you be in the vicinity of a wild iguana population, there are a number of Guyanese iguana recipes to be found online, including this one for Guyanese iguana stew, from our friends at Uncommon Caribbean. Bon appetit!

Jesse Serwer

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See previous Pic of the Week features here.