Sunday, March 30, 2008

El Mercado

If you want to see, feel, and smell how the locals shop, just head over to the mercado. In search of this experience, this past Sunday we ventured downtown to the local municipal market here in Cuernavaca. The bus deposited us right off in front of the huge building which houses hundreds of stalls and vendors. So we rubbed shoulders with the locals as we wound our way through the narrow aisles.

The minimum wage in Mexico is about 4 U.S. dollars a day, so if you're in that pitiful earning category, you're not going to shop in the big supermarkets - all of which happen to be owned by Walmart here in Cuernavaca. Your 4 bucks a day won't buy you much in those places. So the mercado is where most Mexicans shop, especially the poor ones. Prices are cheaper, bargaining is common, and the selection is as good if not better and fresher than in the large box stores.

A typical mercado is open daily and sells everything under the sun: consumables, vegetables, fruits, dried foods, flowers, spices, meats, fish, clothing, magazines, books, music, drugs, party favors, household items, etc... There are restaurants, taco stands, tortilla stands, juice stands and all other kinds of snack bars, too. Product types are grouped together, so for instance all the veggies are in one area of the building, fruits in another, meats in yet another and so on. Colorful displays are artfully arranged and you'll come across delicious aromas, especially around the fruit and flower stands, as well as rather horrid smells like those we encountered in the meat and fish departments.

You've basically got several groups of people who thrive off of the mercados. You've got the professional merchants. They can be selling in one location or circulating around while trying to sell their stuff. You've got the serious customers who shop there on a regular basis, and then you've got the passerbys, like tourists who are just popping in or only buying one item. You've got various levels of authorities who make sure everything runs as it should. You've got the support workers who clean, unload, and transfer stuff, and finally you've got the beggars and prostitutes who are just trying to make a living. Outside you'll find an array of transportation options: trucks, cabs, buses, and collectivos, all eager to help you carry your goods to their destination.

All in all, spending time in any mercado in Mexico will surely be an interesting experience.

Here's a sampling of what we saw. I only wish I could include the smells!

The main mercado building with the taxis lined up...

Dried chiles and grain...

Walking down one of the aisles...

Lots of fresh fruit...

Mole for sale...

Fruit gift baskets...

Topical fruits...

Veggies...

Herbs and spices...

Hog heads...I wanted to buy one, but didn't have a pot big enough to cook it in...

Flowers...they're a lot cheaper here than in the states...

Backpacks and bags...

Typical scene...

Taco stand...

Hats and baskets...

More backpacks...

Clothing...

1 comment:

Hisako said...

Thank you for the wonderful blog entries. I enjoyed visualizing the market scenes and then looking at the pictures. I could almost smell the sweet aroma of the fruit. The hog head! I thought it was alive at first.