Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mercados of Mexico

                                                                    Photo by Chrlie Huynh/David Richey

If you want to see some of  the REAL Mexico, go to the mercados of whatever village or town that you visit.  It is always a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

The photo above is of the mercado in San Miguel de Allende. Mercado Ramirez just down the hill from my house.   It is a cornucopia of beautiful fruits and vegetables along with shopping bags, fresh flowers and small serving counters where one can have meals.

It is not grand, but serviceable.  On the outside of the market are women from the countryside selling nopales with the thorns removed, tuna (the fruit of the cactus) and all kinds of other items that are used for cooking.

The small counter service food stands are  kinda like a food court in the malls of the USA!  Well sorta.  The people who own their stands remember a shopper from one week to the next.  They will get anything for you that they don't happen to have the week that you ask for it.  And, they almost always give you a regalo (gift) of a piece of fruit for your patronage.  It's such a touching custom.

The most spectacular mercado for me in all my life, has been the one in Guadalajara.  I was there starting in the early 80's until the late 90's off and on.  Always, as fast as my feet could take me, I would head upstairs in the gargantuan market to the aisle with the herbs and salves.  What you see there is other worldly.  At least it used to be.  The indigenous women would come in from the countryside to get the things that they wanted or needed for healing or cooking. 

A memory of a happening that I experienced one day seldom leaves me.  I was sitting on the stairs overlooking a small courtyard.  An indigenous woman in a long skirt and rebozo had a swaddled baby in her arms.  Earlier, she had been on the herbal aisle.  Totally unaware of any other person, she knelt, opened the swaddling of the baby, and began to tenderly rub oils on the skin of the baby.  It wasn't a quick fix.  It was a long drawn out process that mesmerized me.  With such tenderness and love, she eventually re wrapped the baby, stood and left.  I felt as though I had been blessed to be present at a beautiful, surreal, ceremony of two people.

That occurrence was probably thirty years ago or so, but, in my mind's eye, I can see the entire event as though it happened yesterday.

I guess that's why when I visit a new place, I don't head for the big buildings or fancy restaurants, but rather,  to the markets, parks and out of the way places.  To see the real Mexico always touches my heart.

Sadly, I confess, that I have not ever been to the many, many mercados of Mexico City.  Perhaps the size of them overwhelms me.   However, the market in Guadalajara is two stories and covers many, many blocks.  So, I do need to go in DF, the next time I am there.

What mercados have you visited?  And, have you had memorable experiences?

19 comments:

Peter Kouwenhoven said...

Are there breads and meats available at the mercados? Like one stop shopping... Not that we would mind going to various shops.
Oh come December! We can hardly wait.

Babs said...

No, there are bakeries all over town.....La Mesa Grande, The Blue Door (my favorite) and Cumpanio just to name three!

Meat I purchase at Mega. There is a meat market on Mesones on a corner that I hear is great as well. Or, one can travel to Celaya or to Queretaro (45 minutes by car) away to buy Canadian beef or whatever.......

Many specialty cheese shops, Casa de Luna, among others. You will not want for good food, I don't think......

Steve Cotton said...

A decent mercado is something I miss here on the coast. But we do have Hawaii.

Retired Teacher said...

I love the markets in Mexico too!
In D.F. some of the markets are indeed huge. One of the biggest is La Merced, and when I was there I had to ask directions to find my way back to the Metro station (which is located inside). But not all of them are that overwhelming. Most neighborhoods will have a weekly "tianguis"... outdoor market. Even in the upscale neighborhood of Condesa, where I usually stay, every Tuesday they close down several blocks of one of the streets for vendors to set up their stalls. It's very colorful, and I can usually buy a shopping bag full of produce without even pulling out my wallet... just the loose change in my pocket! Nearby in the "colonia" of Roma Sur is the Medellin market. It's quite interesting. Since the neighborhood is the center of the South American community, you will find a lot of Colombian and Venezuelan products in addition to the typical offerings.

If you come to D.F. to visit the markets be sure to go to Jamaica Market. There is a metro stop right outside the door so it is easy to get to. When you enter it looks like your typical Mexican market... but as you go farther, you come to the flower section. The Jamaica Market is one of the largest flower markets in the city. The flower section alone is bigger than most market buildings. Here you will find stall after stall selling cut flowers, arrangements and wreaths. With your love of markets, AND your love of flowers, I'm sure that you would be in heaven!

Babs said...

Bill, GREAT information on the mercados of DF. I think I'll try to connect with you next time you're going to be in Mexico. The Jamaica market sounds like a dream.....

Babs said...

There is bound to be a mercado in Manzanillo as old a port as it is! Have you ever looked for it? Something to add to your list.

Yes, Hawaii is a good place to find food, and that great bread, but definitely not a mercado...........

Retired Teacher said...

Barbara, that would be great if we could connect in D.F. I'll even take you to the Jamaica Market. I already have my reservations for my next trip to Mexico City. I'll be there from November 2 until November 23. Let me know. You still have my e-mail address, don't you?

Joan said...

So many cool things in DF! I am totally going to check out
the Jamaica next time I'm there. It does sound like heaven!
The mercados are really the heart and soul of a place, the
first place I go!

Jvineyard said...

My daughter's friend drove us to a mercado outside of SMA. It was huge, selling everything from clothes, cookware, fruits, veggies, and chickens. I'm thinking it only took place on certain days of the week. It was mobbed and fun. Strawberries were heaped to the sky. Judy

Babs said...

Bill, how about mid November? I'll email you.......soon

Babs said...

Judy, that was the tianguis, the traveling markets, that set up on Tuesday here then move to another town the next day. Tianguis have been around since there were people living in Mexico! Remarkable experiences.

Retired Teacher said...

Mid-November sounds great! Make it during the week, since Alejandro and I usually take off on little excursions on the weekends. I look forward to seeing you again!

Calypso said...

We have small to grand mercados in the Xalapa area. We most often visit the Coatepec Mercado - medium sized with a great variety of items. I don't know if you have ever been over on the east coast of Mexico Babs?

Babs said...

Yes, Calypso, I've been to Xalapa, Coatepec and all over the State of Veracruz, but its probably been at least 10 years. I spent Christmas in City of Veracruz one year.
Really enjoyed it. For some reason, Veracruz reminded me of New Orleans! Xalapa was a big surprise. I stayed mostly in little villages however.

Shannon said...

I love the mercados as well. One of my favourites is the Abastos Mercado in Morelia. Blocks and block and blocks of everything you could ever imagine. They supply the smaller mercados of Patzcuaro, and the lake towns, the many Morelia mercados and restaurants etc.

Another of my favourites is Guanajuato City, a two story mercado where you can stand at the top and survey the entire building, an area of a couple of blocks. I have not been to the mercado in Guadalajara for many years but I remember it as being one the biggest and most interesting that I a have seen.

Babs said...

Shannon, I had forgotten the mercado in Morelia until you mentioned it. It IS big. I've never been to the one in Guanajuato........will have to go there some time.

I love the mercados in the small villages in the STate of Oaxaca.....and, of course, Chiapas. Oh my!

But, my most favorite, and the one closest (IMHO) to life 1000 years ago, is in Chichicastenengo, Guatemala. It was so beautiful and amazing that I had tears in my eyes when I first saw it. Truly.

Joan said...

YES the markets in Guatemala were really wonderful. I think I still have the photos from
1975 of me in the Chichi market. I am also remembering the Otavalo and Cuzco mercados.
Because of your post I am time traveling through past mercado experiences!! Thanks!

gringosuelto said...

This reminds me of trips to the mercado near F's house in DF. One time in particular, I was looking for anchovies. Not only did I not find any, but I collected a lot of weird looks, like "why on earth would you want such a thing?"

But the fruits and veggies were to die for.

Saludos,

Kim G
Boston, MA
Where nearly everything is wrapped in plastic.

Babs said...

Great story Kim. If I'm going to be looking for something unusual, I usually try to take a picture with me. It saves a whole lot of time as often, their idea of something is not the same as the word for the item!