Portland Mercado

About two months ago, the Portland Mercado opened in Portland at SE 72nd and Foster. The idea of Portland Mercado has been a work in progress for 9 years, and it was great to see this dream of a Latino public market, community space, and business incubator finally be realized. You can read more details at OPB about how this area of Portland has been gentrifying, and the intent to make Portland Mercado an economic anchor.
Portland Mercado opened in Portland at SE 72nd and Foster. This corner lot has been a work in progress for 9 years, and it was great to see this dream of a Latino public market, community space, and business incubator finally be realized. Portland Mercado and the colorful 8 carts of the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine

As someone who has grown up in Chicago, I am used to the summer weekend markets on Maxwell Street with the street food (hello elote and huitlacoche taco), and vibrant Latino neighborhoods like Pilsen that boast Latino businesses that include not only the excellent restaurants and bakeries, but art galleries, really fun architecture, and colorful murals and somehow, peppy music always coming from somewhere.

In Chicago, the Pilsen area even held annually a big popular festival for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. When I was in high school, there was a student club called Gourmet Club I joined (eventually my senior year I even became the president of it) that opened students’ eyes to Dia de los Muertos and Mexican food beyond Taco Bell or burritos, as well as Ethiopian food and more, thanks to after school field trips to eat at restaurants and explore the ethnic neighborhoods those restaurants were located in.

During the Dia de los Muertos festival in Pilsen, I recall the streets and stores were full of mixed audiences as the community sought to promote the heritage to new people by both celebrating and educating. I remember the altars, the face painting, the mix of somberness and fun, a lot of skeletons, a lot of great art (seriously, there is so much great Latino American art), sugar skulls and lots of sweet bread, and a parade that wound through the parks. More than a decade later, I am still reaping the rewards of curiosity of other countries through cuisine as a gateway. The Portland Mercado could be the start of such a gateway in Portland to promoting Latin America culture.
After ordering food at the food cart pod here, visit Barrio Bar at Portland Mercado where you can order a wine, beer, michelada, or sangria to enjoy. Portland Mercado. The cart Los Alambres offers street food from Mexico City, particularly El Alambre for which the cart is named. Alambre is a grilled mix of Bacon/Ham, Chorizo, Asada, onion, bell pepper, onion, and melted cheese served with corn tortillas. Meanwhile Barrio provided sangria for me to wash it down.

Even though it has only been open a few months, Portland Mercado has already thrown several different days of special events that included DJs playing Latino music, live music, dance performances from Mexico and Latin America, and lots of promotions of drink and food specials.

My steady support has been to patronize the food carts that currently make up the food cart pod at Portland Mercado. Although all 8 food carts serve Latin themed food, they are all different in terms of the type of food they offer and often the region of cuisine they may be representing. I hear they may rotate the food cart owners to change out the cuisine and share the opportunity to other small business owners, but that’s still to be seen.
Portland Mercado and the colorful 8 carts of the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine

Most of the carts operate the same way where you order from the cart window that faces the tables, and then you usually get a number or tell them a name to call. You then step aside and usually if its busy wait to be called at a second window on the side (it might be the same window if it’s not busy).

After your short wait as they prepare your food, you retrieve your order and can take it to go or find a seat at the community picnic tables by the food carts or inside the Market Hall.

Another option is to get a table at Barrio while ordering a wine, beer, michelada, or sangria to wash down your food (you can also order non alcoholic drinks varying from Latin sodas to Horchata from the various carts). The tables at Barrio are for Barrio customers rather then the shared benches and tables by the food carts or inside the Market Hall, and they are smaller in size if you want a bit more privacy in your conversation. If you drink alcoholic beverages, the alcoholic drinks are only allowed at the Barrio tables or inside the Market Hall, not in the dining area by the food carts which are intentionally geared to be more family oriented aka children and dog friendly.

Barrio offers 5 beers on tap, 7 wines by the glasses, bottles aof wine and beer, growlers, and Latin American drink specials. Keep in mind that every drink you order from Barrio helps the community  – a percentage of the beverage profits go back to Portland Mercado’s Arts and Cultural Programming and supporting small business development.
Barrio Bar at Portland Mercado where you can order a wine, beer, michelada, or sangria to enjoy. Every drink you order from Barrio helps - a percentage of the beverage profits go back to Portland Mercado's Arts and Cultural Programming and supporting small business development. Barrio Bar at Portland Mercado where you can order a wine, beer, michelada, or sangria to enjoy. Every drink you order from Barrio helps - a percentage of the beverage profits go back to Portland Mercado's Arts and Cultural Programming and supporting small business development.

The eight food carts at Portland Mercado include quite a variety of food, and can likely with the different offerings accommodate diets – I know vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free and paleo for instance can all be accommodated for by perusing the 8 menus. I have named the carts here in order from closest to the Portland Mercado/left side when facing the carts, as you walk along Foster from 73rd towards the overflow parking lot on 72nd and Foster):

The schedules of the carts vary – they are all open 6 days a week, and will either take a day of rest on Monday or Tuesday so if you have your heart set on a certain cart, make sure you check the hours of operation to make sure it’s open that day!
Portland Mercado food carts

Que Bacano Colombian Food

This red cart on the end closest to the Portland Mercado Market Hall has a lot of unfamiliar words on their menu of Colombian food. For starters there are new dishes you may want to try like Almojabanas (cheesey rolls with cornmeal and cheese), Patacones (fried green plaintains with guiso sauce – shown with the red sauce below like big crispy chips), Yuca Frita (fried cassova root – the dish that some people thought looked like potatoes but it’s yuca below), or Arepas Rellenas (flatbread sandwiches – can be vegetarian or like below, chicken). Don’t overlook the main dishes either, such as Arroz Con Pollo (rice with chicken and vegetables served with patacones), Arroz Mixto (a Colombian version of fried rice), Picada Colombiana (all sorts of meat like steak, chicken, chorizo and veggies like yuca, tomatoes, plaintain) and more.
Portland Mercado and the colorful 8 carts of the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine / Que Bacano here at the end here specializes in Colombian food Que Bacano Colombian Food at Portland Mercado, Patacones, fried green plaintains with guiso sauce Que Bacano Colombian Food at Portland Mercado, Arepas Rellenas (flatbread sandwiches - can be vegetarian or like here, chicken) Que Bacano Colombian Food at Portland Mercado, Yuca Frita, a fried cassova root - the dish that some people thought looked like potatoes but it's yuca
Above, the Patacones (fried green plaintains with guiso sauce), Arepas Rellenas (flatbread sandwiches – can be vegetarian or like here, chicken), and (Yuca Frita, a fried cassova root)
Que Bacano Colombian Food at Portland Mercado, here the Arroz Mixto main dish which is a Colombian version of fried rice with chicken, pork, shrimp, and more and served with two patacones or fried green plaintains Que Bacano Colombian Food at Portland Mercado, here the Arroz Mixto main dish which is a Colombian version of fried rice with chicken, pork, shrimp, and more and served with two patacones or fried green plaintains Que Bacano Colombian Food at Portland Mercado, here the Arroz Mixto main dish which is a Colombian version of fried rice with chicken, pork, shrimp, and more and served with two patacones or fried green plaintains
Que Bacano Colombian Food at Portland Mercado, here the Arroz Mixto main dish is enough for two, it’s a Colombian version of fried rice with chicken, pork, shrimp, and more and served with two patacones or fried green plaintains

Mixteca PDX Tamales and Mole

This cart specializes in Oaxacan cuisine, which adds to what you see normally see here in the US as traditional Mexican with regional ingredients like Oaxacan cheese and loving the use of moles. Here, they really go all out on the moles, with their best sellers probably being the Mole Bowl or Mole Plate with their Mole Negro (one of the seven famous moles of Oaxaca region). They have other a la carte dishes with other moles, such as Tamal Oaxaqueno with Mole Oaxaqueno, Chileajo with red mole, and several dishes that have a sauteed tomato sauce. They also offer a tamale box that you can naturally, add mole sauce to if you’d like. Below the dish I had was the Chileajo, which I further topped with one of the sauces they had on the side, a pumpkin seed one here.
-"Portland Mixteca PDX Tamales and Mole food cart at the Portland Mercado's A La Carte dish of Chileajo, a shredded pork with deep red mole sauce that is mild and smoky (aka chileajo mole). I further topped mine with pumpkin seed sauce.

Fernando’s Alegria Burritos and Wraps

This cart is just as the name implies, all about the burritos and wraps. The insides of the burritos vary from breakfast versions to steak to chorizo to pork carnitas with grilled pineapple or pollo tinga to even veggie or vegan (such as grilled tofu and nopalitas) for accommodating any dietary need.
Portland Mercado has 8 carts in the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine.Fernando's Alegria at Portland Mercado offers burritos and wraps

El Gato Tuerto

The blue El Gato Tuerto cart brings Cuban/Argentinian Food to the cart pod. This includes main dishes like Pescado al Mojo (marinated fish in Mojo sauce) and Ropa Vieja (shredded beef simmered and served with rice) that represents the more Caribbean side towards Cuba, or Churrazquito (beef,  chicken and chorizo that is grilled and brushed with chimichurri)  that represents Argentina. They also offer a handful of sandwiches such as the Argentine Choripán (chorizo) or Milanesa (breaded pan fried chicken, beef or eggplant) sandwiches, or the Cuban Sandwich de Platano (sweet plaintain) or a Cubano (roasted pork, ham and cheese). For an interesting vegetarian choice, the vegetarian Gaucho sandwich offers nuts, herbs, eggs, cheese, spices and mushrooms for lots of fun textures and flavors without any meat. Besides the mains and sandwiches the cart offers quite a few sides, including Lengua (marinated beef tongue Argentine style), Plaintains, and Yuca con mojo (cassovo root with a garlic sauce, pretty much guaranteed deliciousness).
Portland Mercado has 8 carts in the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. The blue El Gato Tuerto cart brings Cuban/Argentinian Food to the cart pod.

5 Volcanes

5 Volcanes focuses on their handmade pupusas and pastelitos,  which are typical Salvadorian dishes. A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla filled with cheese and a filliing of your choice varying from Chicharron (fried pork rinds) to Loroco (edible flower) or chicken or beans. You see an example pupusa below. Meanwhile the pastelitos are corn tortillas folded and fried, and filled with choices like chicken, beef, or veggies. They also have a dessert option of Empanadas de Platano, which are plaintains filled with milk, corn starch and beans and fried before sprinkling sugar on top.
5 Volcanes specializes in pupusas and pastelitos which are typical Salvadorian dishes. A pupusa is a thick corn tortilla filled with cheese and a filliing of your choice varying from Chicharron (fried pork rinds) to Loroco (edible flower) or chicken or beans. The pastelitos they serve hereare corn torillas folded and fried, and filled with choices like chicken, beef, or veggie Portland Mercado has 8 carts in their food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. The cart 5 Volcanes specializes in pupusas and empanadas which are typical Salvadorian dishes - here you see a pupusa

Las Adelas Mexican Comfort Food

Las Adelas Mexican Comfort Food offers some unique dishes like Pozole soups, which are stews with either chicken or pork soup and hominy with tostada, onion, radish, cilantro, lemon and sauce.

They also offer huaraches, which are topped with various options and salsa, like the Huarache Acorazado (beef, pastor, chicharron, chicken, or chile relleno with rice and beans) or Huarache de Cecina (with salted beef and mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, cheese, and green or red salsa). It is the Huarache de Cecina that you see below.
Portland Mercado has 8 carts in the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. Las Adelas Mexican Comfort Food offers some unique dishes like Huarache and Pozole (either chicken or pork soup and hominy with tostada, onion, radish, cilantro, lemon and sauce) Las Adelas Mexican Comfort Food at Portland Mercado offering of Huarache de Cecina (an oval fried masa patty with salted beef and mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, cheese, and green or red salsa) Las Adelas Mexican Comfort Food at Portland Mercado offering of Huarache de Cecina (an oval fried masa patty with salted beef and mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, cheese, and green or red salsa) Las Adelas Mexican Comfort Food at Portland Mercado offering of Huarache de Cecina (an oval fried masa patty with salted beef and mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, cheese, and green or red salsa) Las Adelas Mexican Comfort Food at Portland Mercado offering of Huarache de Cecina (an oval fried masa patty with salted beef and mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, cheese, and green or red salsa)

There are a few other plates too, like Pollo Azado (a special seasoned chicken with salad, rice, beans, and handmade tortillas) and Carne Azada Plate (beef, melted cheese, nopal salad, onion, rice, beans and handmade tortillas).

Los Alambres

Street food from Mexico City, particularly Alambres for which the cart is named. An alambre is a grilled mix of Bacon/Ham, Chorizo, Asada, onion, bell pepper, onion, and melted cheese served with corn tortillas. So full of flavor and texture… really good. A Pambazo grilled bread with Guajillo sauce and potatoes, chorizo, lettuce, sour cream and queso fresco also is a tasty special, in addition to the almost dozen tortas or sandwich combinations they offer. The alambre is their best dish in my opinion though.
Portland Mercado has 8 carts in their food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. The cart Los Alambres offers street food from Mexico City, particularly El Alambre for which the cart is named. Alambre is a grilled mix of Bacon/Ham, Chorizo, Asada, onion, bell pepper, onion, and melted cheese served with corn tortillas Portland Mercado has 8 carts in their food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. The cart Los Alambres offers street food from Mexico City, particularly El Alambre for which the cart is named. Alambre is a grilled mix of Bacon/Ham, Chorizo, Asada, onion, bell pepper, onion, and melted cheese served with corn tortillas.

Tierra Del Sol Oaxacan Cuisine

This cart specializes in Oaxacan cuisine. I think Tladuya is the inspiration for the Americanized Mexican pizza. The traditional Tladuya starts with a baked corn tortilla the size of a small pizza that is covered with meat, cheese, beans, tomato, cabbage, radish, avocado and salsa. If you stop at this cart, I highly recommend you walk away with this Tladuya dish (it can be meat or vegetarian). As they promise on their menu, the Tladuya is indeed enough for 2 people, or maybe 4 if you treat it like a shared appetizer.
Portland Mercado has 8 carts in the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. Tierra del Sol specializes in Oaxacan Cuisine, and most noticable from this cart are the Tladuya, which starts with a baked corn tortilla the size of a small pizza that is covered with meat, cheese, beans, tomato, cabbage, radish, avocado and salsa Portland Mercado has 8 carts in the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. Tierra del Sol specializes in Oaxacan Cuisine, and most noticable from this cart are the Tladuya, which starts with a baked corn tortilla the size of a small pizza that is covered with meat, cheese, beans, tomato, cabbage, radish, avocado and salsa Portland Mercado has 8 carts in the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. Tierra del Sol specializes in Oaxacan Cuisine. Here is a veggie mole enchilada using handmade blue corn tortillas along with veggie stew and topped with mole, lettuce, red onion, queso fresco, sour cream from Ochoa Quesaria in Albany Oregon and served with a side of rice and beans
If you see anyone with blue corn tacos or quesadillas or mole enchiladas, they also come from this cart,  and they are handmade. The tacos and then the mole enchilada plate are shown below. The vegetarian mole enchilada plate is a version with handmade blue corn tortillas along with veggie stew and topped with mole, lettuce, red onion, queso fresco, sour cream from Ochoa Quesaria in Albany Oregon, and served with a side of rice and beans. I would recommend the Tladuya of all the dishes at this cart though.
Portland Mercado has 8 carts in their food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. Tierra del Sol specializes in Oaxacan Cuisine. They use blue corn tortillas on their tacos, quesadillas, and mole enchiladas. Portland Mercado has 8 carts in the food cart pod, where each food cart specializes in different Latin cuisine. Tierra del Sol specializes in Oaxacan Cuisine. Here is a veggie mole enchilada using handmade blue corn tortillas along with veggie stew and topped with mole, lettuce, red onion, queso fresco, sour cream from Ochoa Quesaria in Albany Oregon and served with a side of rice and beans

Consider making it a progressive meal where you order from multiple carts… because I have done exactly that every single time I have visited. I like to spread my support around to everyone! A good trick for this is to order from carts next to each other, not on far ends by the way (doh!), or even better strategize with your dining companions what you will be sharing family style. For instance, below I have the Arroz Mixto from Que Bacano that I enjoyed with a horchata from the cart next door, Mixteca, and then dessert was from Fruit Box.
Portland Mercado, here the Arroz Mixto from Que Bacano Colombian Food at  and a horchata from the cart next door, Mixteca

Make sure you wander inside the Market Hall after your meal… you might find some meat (perhaps carne asada or something in the Latin American style marinades they offer) to take home to cook for dinner tomorrow at El Carnicero.

Portland Mercado opened in Portland at SE 72nd and Foster. This corner lot has been a work in progress for 9 years, and it was great to see this dream of a Latino public market, community space, and business incubator finally be realized. Portland Mercado opened in Portland at SE 72nd and Foster. This corner lot has been a work in progress for 9 years, and it was great to see this dream of a Latino public market, community space, and business incubator finally be realized. Portland Mercado, the Market Hall includes tables for dining as well as the Carnicero here. Portland Mercado opened in Portland at SE 72nd and Foster. This corner lot has been a work in progress for 9 years, and it was great to see this dream of a Latino public market, community space, and business incubator finally be realized.
Definitely consider the different chorizos by Don Felipe Products – I particularly like Chorizo Verde, a green chorizo that includes beef and pork, spinach, serrano peppers, pumpkin seeds, garlic, onion, apple cider vinegar and spices. The Chorizo Rojo has pork, red crushed peppers, paprika, garlic, apple cider vinegar and spices with a hint of cinnamon, and their Chorizo de Pollo has chicken along with chipotle peppers, apple cider vinegar, cloves, cumin, garlic and salt. All their chorizo are lean, all natural, minimally prossed and free of fillers, glands, added sugar and all made in Portland.

Portland Mercado - Don Felipe products include Chorizo Verde, Chorizo Rojo, and Chorozo de Pollo

There may be fresh tortillas still warm fresh off the grill on the weekend at the Kaah Market Grocer, or check out their fresh tomatillos or chayote.

¡Buenos días! #tropicalfruit #portlandmercado A photo posted by Portland Mercado (@portlandmercado) on

Browse the fun Mexican candy or chips or other snacks (she often has samples of several things to try, and everything is very affordable to get a single piece to try as a candy adventure. And, she’s super sweet just like her store!) at Fiesta Tradicional Pinatas and Candies, located just across the entrance by Barrio. Inside the Market Hall is also where the restrooms are located. Portland Mercado opened in Portland at SE 72nd and Foster. This corner lot has been a work in progress for 9 years, and it was great to see this dream of a Latino public market, community space, and business incubator finally be realized. This is Fiesta Tradicional Pinatas and Candies, with Mexican candy chips and other snacks At Portland Mercado's Fiesta Tradicional Pinatas and Candies browse the fun Mexican candy or chips or other snacks Inside the Cafe Revolucion Coffee Shop are some amazing looking dessert pastries such as 3 leches cake and flan in the case, or in the pastry cabinet Conchas (Mexican sweet bread), Nino Envuelta and more. You can also order Mexican drinks like various atoles, which are traditional hot corn masa based drinks with milk, cinnamon, and piloncillo (molasses) and other ingredients like strawberry or chocolate or pecan. Portland Mercado: inside the Cafe Revlolucion Coffee Shop are some amazing looking dessert pastries Portland Mercado: inside the Cafe Revlolucion Coffee Shop are some amazing looking dessert pastries At Portland Mercado, inside the Cafe Revolucion Coffee Shop are some amazing looking dessert pastries such as 3 leches cake and flan in the cases or here in the pastry cabinet Conchas and Nino Envuelta and more At Portland Mercado, inside the Cafe Revolucion Coffee Shop are Mexican drinks like various atoles, which are traditional hot corn masa based drinks with milk, cinnamon, and piloncillo (molasses) and other ingredients like strawberry or chocolate or pecan As another dessert option, you could be tempted by Churros PDX at the Mercado if you visit Portland Mercado on Wednesday-Sunday afternoons, where this cart sweetens the air with the scent of fried dough and cinnamon sugar. Their cart is located right by the entrance to the Main Hall, by Fiesta Tradicional.

Churros PDX at the Mercado this weekend and every week from Wednesday-Sunday! #churros #pdx #pdxeats #portlandmercado A photo posted by Portland Mercado (@portlandmercado) on

The Fruit Box Snack Bar also might be a great dessert with its multiple fruit options that are made into Mexican fruit salad desserts topped with Crema Bionico (a sweet cream I think made with condensed milk? You can even purchase jars of this to go to top your own fruit at home), granola and coconut. They offer the fruit in beverage form like Jugos Frescos (fresh juice), smoothies, milkshakes, and raspados (snow cones!!). There is other stuff on their menu, but I would recommend sticking with what I just mentioned since it’s their clear specialty.

Below is the Fruit Box Diablito, a fruit drink that is also spicy and also a bit like a slushee or water ice. You choose the fruit flavor – I picked strawberry here.
Fruit Box Diablito, a fruit drink that is also spicy and also a bit like a slushee or water ice. You choose the fruit flavor here I picked strawberry Fruit Box Diablito, a fruit drink that is also spicy and also a bit like a slushee or water ice. You choose the fruit flavor here I picked strawberry Fruit Box Diablito, a fruit drink that is also spicy and also a bit like a slushee or water ice. You choose the fruit flavor here I picked strawberry

I am wishing a lot of luck to Portland Mercado, and I hope you will join me in supporting the Portland Mercado vendors and the community.

I’m not being sponsored and I wasn’t asked to promote them – otherwise you would see a disclosure statement at the end of this post. I just think this is an important group of businesses that deserve our patronage and that could pave the way for other public market and business incubators in Portland, it’s a way to build community, and so I want very much for Portland Mercado to succeed.

What better way to bring people of various backgrounds and economic situations together than food, and Portland Mercado has plenty of it to try.

Have you been to Portland Mercado yet? What cart did you try, or cart do you want to try when you go visit?

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Comments

  1. This may be one of my favorite posts! I love Mexican cuisine and I am always looking for great new food to try. I LOVE public markets and food trucks so this is just perfect! I am going to try and convince my husband to take me here tonight/every night this week 😉
    Cheers!

  2. THnaks for this great post, Pech. The Portland Mercado pod is new to me – and out in my old stomping grounds, so I guess we need to make sure and stop next time we are over that way. I really like your suggestion for having a progressive meal, too!

  3. What I meant to say was, “Thanks for this great post…” (The copy editor in me is banging her head against the wall right now.)

  4. My husband loves Mexican, and this isn’t too far from us. This is a great review – super helpful! Thanks!

  5. We definitely need to check this out! I think we need to come hungry and with lots of people so that we can try every cart AND save room for dessert. I’m super excited about this! Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

    • Definitely come hungry as most main entrées seriously can feed 2. Its also cute seeing kids play with each other as parents share spaces on the picnic benches, like an urban eating park

  6. Must. Go. Try.

  7. ohhh i’m so glad you posted about this! i had no idea this was happening because we don’t get to SE much so i’m excited to check it out! YAY! also “Fruit Box Diablito” whoa. WHOA. i may need to try one of those.

  8. Thank you so much for posting about Portland Mercado. I had no idea – we live pretty close at Mt. Tabor – and it sounds like an amazing culinary trip without having to leave Portland. It is on our “go to” list for a fun lunch break with my kiddos – it looks like there will also be quite a bit of dairy free choices for my little ladies 🙂 Again, thank you!

    • I’m glad you found the post helpful, and it was definitely part of my purpose to help get people to visit Portland Mercado and support the multiple small businesses there 🙂

  9. Patricia says:

    Please, please, please correct Columbia, and Columbian to Colombia, and Colombian. It’s a common mistake but one that differentiates the country of Colombia from say British Columbia, Columbia University, District of Columbia, etc.

    I’ll be visiting Portland this weekend and will definitely be making a stop at the Portland Mercado. Great article!

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