Friday, February 20, 2015


Pablo Neruda* said it very well: “MEXICO IS IN ITS MARKETS."  ("Lo recorrí por años enteros, de mercado a mercado, porque México está en los mercados".  (I went from market to market for years because Mexico is in its markets.)     *

In every city, town, or village in Mexico there is a traditional market designed to meet basic needs. These can be called by different names. In municipal seats, the main "fixed" market for the area is called the municipal market (mercado municipal). In the cities, but also in the smaller outlying area, the provisional temporary markets are called "tianguis" from the Nahautl (Aztec) word for "market."

      I hope this beautiful piece of flesh is just helping his master pick up his munching greens!  

Checking out the offerings at the weekly tianguis market in Zaachila, Oaxaca.

    Fruit on the stick and a heavy bag of rice (or beans) on the head!  

    The tianguis mercados are a kaleidoscope of colors, smells, sounds, and sights!

The “tianguis” and mercados were and are more than a simple space for buying and selling. They are are places where the heart of Mexican culture beats. Here, the country’s flavors, colors and aromas are concentrated. Along their corridors you can hear the voices of the vendors, shouting in their mischievous tone which is so characteristic of the Mexican people. Everywhere you can see handmade signs announcing fruits, meat, or cheese “at the best price”. As foreigners residing in Mexico it is where my husband and I go when we want to feel more a part of Mexican culture and the community. We buy groceries including special fruits and vegetable, eat at local food stands with traditional made-from-scratch dishes, and absorb the ambiance. Visiting the mercados is one of our favorite past times and one of which I never tire.

     Is someone lost in the giant fruit section at the Zaachila tianguis in Oaxaca?

Tejate [teˈxate] is a maize and cacao beverage traditionally made in Oaxaca and originating from pre-Hispanic times. It remains very popular among the indigenous Mixtec and Zapotec peoples, especially in rural areas.

     Flowers and piñatas are found in the municipal mercados of Mexico and are big sellers

And it is in these mercados, dating back to pre-Hispanic times, where Mexican culture survives. While traditional markets have their own permanent space and are open every day, the “tianguis” are provisional and set up for business on the streets one day a week. For the indigenous pre-Hispanic population, the mercados were a place for swaps: for coexistence and cultural expression; where they bought and sold their products; where they set up civil and religious events; and where major decisions for their communities were made. Definitely the heart of their culture!

    The type of corn used to make these tortillas for gorditas (stuffed tortillas) determines their color and are super deliciosas!  

Do you know what this is? It's deep fried pork rinds which is called chicharrón and is very, very popular in Mexico.  But then, who's counting cholesterol!  

                                  Notice the hand sanitizer now offered before you indulge!  

Archaeological evidence has shown that the Olmecs were probably the first culture with a system of trading networks that spread over what is the center of Mexico.  Subsequent cultures with vast trading networks include the Teotihuacans and the Maya.  Local products, as well as those obtained from trading networks, were distributed through local markets called "tianguis" (Nahuatl for "market") which were generally set up on certain days of the week. Mexico and other Mesoamerican markets were based on the trading of items with certain very valuable items such as cacao beans serving as currency.

 Fresh fish from the Pacific coast is found daily at the Benito Juarez Municipal Mercado in Oaxaca

  A "cremeria"sells primarily quesos (cheeses) and other dairy products, but often other products as well, as seen at the Benito Juarez municipal mercado in Oaxaca City

    Checking out the jitomates (red tomatoes) and the tomatillos (small green tomatoes) at the tianguis in Zaachila, Oaxaca

The Tlatelolco tianguis, the largest in the pre-Hispanic Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, was described by the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortes as a place where thousands of people came every day to sell and purchase a wide variety of products. The largest Mesoamerican trade network and market system was developed by the Aztecs which brought valuable exotic goods from distant lands such as jade, cotton, cacao and precious metals.

   Turkey and the famous mole sauces of Oaxaca are made for each other - yummy yummy! Sorry turkeys!  

      Green onions anyone?  Check out the beautiful flowers behind the Señora to the left! 

     Arranging the produce in the mercados is definitely a job, but also a creative endeavor!  

    Is someone lost in the maze of fruits, flowers, and shopping bags at the San Miguel de Allende municipal mercado? 

  Laura and "her chiles" as seen at Zaachila which is famous for its Thursday tianguis market which has been a tradition since pre-Hispanic times.

The Tlalteloco market drew between an estimated 20,000 and 25,000 people each day to buy and sell.  In addition, every five days was the official "market day" drawing between 40,000 and 45,000 (!!) people as there would be a far greater variety of merchandise. These markets sold everything from basic foodstuffs, to slaves, to exotic items from distant lands, to precious metals such as gold. Can you believe it!  My vision of this extraordinary tianguis and the meeting of the indigenous pre-Hispanic people totally overwhelms my imagination.

Artist depiction of the extraordinary mercado at Tlatelolco in the Aztec capital which is now part of Mexico City, the capital of Mexico.

Bartering was a large part of the pre-Hispanic market tradition.

Would it not be extraordinary to be able to travel back in time to witness the traditions and cultures of pre-Hispanic Mexico! 

     An Aztec "princess" visiting the weekly Tlalteloco market - I wonder what she is looking for?

Today you can find these fascinating traditional markets throughout the country of Mexico. If you want to soak up Mexican culture, grab your market bag, and go! This is one experience I highly recommend to all visitors and locals alike. And I can guarantee you won't be disappointed!

In the near future, as a followup to this posting,  you will see a posting on the indigenous pre-Hispanic foods of Mexico which are very much a part of modern cuisine.  Until then, please enjoy the following web album and it's embedded slide show. As always I look forward to hearing from my followers with their questions, comments, and suggestions.  Gracias and safe travels!  Laura


                                                     Memories are just a click away!  

1 comment:

  1. I am so happy to discover your blog, Laura. You lovingly portray Mexico with all its beauty and eccentricities.