First published in Atención San Miguel
In Mexico City’s neighborhoods tall red and green ‘Mi Mercado’ signs are a familiar sight, and although statistics show that more and more Mexicans are shopping in American-style supermarkets each year, in the big city the traditional market is going strong.
Mercados bring the farm, the earth, the past into everyday life. At the Museo de Antropología in
Most market stalls are small family-run businesses, so there is an intimate feel of a village in the mercado. You can still ask for ‘un aguacate para hoy’, a recommendation for the best melon, or get a free apple as a ‘pilón’ from your friendly local greengrocer. Vendors beseech you with ‘Que vay a llevar?’ or ‘Que le damos, marchanta?’ and there is a chatty, bustling feel to the proceedings, and usually, somewhere, music.
A few miles south of the Zócalo, the Mercado Jamaica offers a laid-back and scaled-down version of La Merced, plus more—it is the city’s wholesale flower market. Beyond the beautifully displayed fruits, vegetables and piñatas are several aisles lined with masses of cut flowers and curious formal arrangements that might include apples, plastic dolls or live goldfish. In the main covered building look for the Tepacheria ‘Paty’ where you can get a refreshing glass of tepache, a traditional drink made of lightly fermented pineapple juice. There is a metro stop at the Mercado Jamaica on the #9 line and a taxio sitio behind the flower market
The Mercado San Juan (on Ernest Pugibet in the Centro) is not the most picturesque place, but it’s where gourmet cooks, professional chefs and French people go to buy their food. Fist-size shrimp, button-sized squash, exotic fruits, chinese vegetables, imported cheeses, wild mushrooms and more are found inside the building. Outside you might find crispy fried grasshoppers or fresh gusanos, worms of the maguey cactus that are eaten live, rolled in a tortilla with salt and lime. The dapper Argentine gentleman by the outside wall of the Mercado San Juan sells excellent empanadas de elote.
The Aztec word ‘tianguis’ is still used to describe once-a-week street markets where the vendor comes to you, a distinctive feature of
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