“Having an identity is only possible once we understand our roots.” I read this phrase a couple of days ago and I totally agree. We want to support local products made in Mexico without really knowing what we are proud of. So, I decided to do some research about what represent us, in order to understand where that pride comes from and share the importance of that discovery.
Archaeology presents evidence from pre-hispanic times about how Olmecs, Mayans and Teotihuacans exercised the formal relations of commerce. Main plazas were crowded with different merchants trading fruit and vegetables, minerals and precious stones from various regions within the country.
In 1338, the most important market of pre-hispanic Mexico was born, the “tiyanquiztle” (better known as tianguis) in the Tlatelolco area. One can only imagine how it must have been walking through its hallways. Each neighborhood was allowed to offer something in trade, which permitted a more fair and organized commerce.
You find yourself mesmerized by the market’s bustle and, without even noticing it, you are surrounded by the noise of all the animals available for purchase: dogs, rabbits, armadillos, even raccoons. You keep walking and then, the delicious smelling food catches your attention. You can distinguish ingredients that come from your mom’s own preparations, your favorite dish. With this wave of memories, your stomach brings you to the present and you know that you cannot leave this part of the market without trying something. “¡Pásale guero!”, the merchants will invite you to explore their stalls like this nowadays.
With a pleased stomach, you keep going. You realize that, to the back, the merchants are selling exclusive items for the nobility, such as sandals, feathers and leather. You are amazed by the colors and textures but you are not so sure of buying something so delicate and luxurious. Undecided, you prefer to continue your journey and stop in front of one of my favorite characters, the medicine man, best known as “curandero”. You will delight your eyes gazing at the various herbs and mixtures of all kind of remedies that promise to cure any ailment – yes, even a broken heart. Don’t get confused, this is not sorcery, these are ancient medical techniques that are still practiced in some remote villages.
As years go by, markets are still a prevailing element of Mexican life where visitors can experience an incredible journey through colors and smells. Even when they are not as organized as before, each market offers unique products for which they are known.
Five markets that you need to visit.
La Lagunilla: Inaugurated at the end of the XIX century, in 1893. Go on a Sunday morning for a dose of inspiration with art, music records and antiques. Address: Corner of Allende and Juan Alvarez, Historic Center.
La Merced: A traditional market from 1932, you will find all kinds of fruits, vegetables and grains. What I like the most about this market is the big variety of sweets and decoration items for children’s parties. Address: Rosario w/n, Venustiano Carranza.
Jamaica: More than 1,000 stalls dedicated to flowers and plants. There are about 5 000 species of flowers and plants for purchase most of them coming from Puebla, Veracruz, Chiapas, Oaxaca and Michoacán. Address: Guillermo Prieto #45, Venustiano Carranza.
Sonora: I mentioned that mi favorite character of a market was the healer and their remedies. You will find many of them in this market, perhaps, the largest of its kind in the country. Mexicans and foreigners alike visit it in search of love potions, amulets or ritual supplies. If you are comfortable with this you should definitely take a look at this place. Address: Av. Fray de Servando Teresa de Pier #419, Venustiano Carranza.
San Juan: Ideal for foodies. This place is famous all over the world among chefs and culinary experts due to the amount of exotic ingredients that you can find that goes from various types of cheese and sausages to, even, lion meat. Address: Ernesto Pugibet #21, Center.