In order to appreciate and be inspired by the misunderstood Mexico City, you have to go beyond the idea of simply seeing it. You have to live it. You have to open yourself up to the everyday Mexico City, roll around in it, absorb it. And eventually it will reveal the tremendous heart that both overtly and subtly is a part of the city’s daily life.
Mexico City’s lively markets are great places to start. Before saying a temporary goodbye to Mexico City and boarding a night bus to Chiapas, I visited three of the city’s most notable markets. It was a tour led by Alejandro, the exceptional guide who introduced me and a few fellow hostelers to the stories behind La Virgen de Guadalupe and the Plaza de las Tres Culturas on a previous day tour.
We took a small rickety local bus to get to our first stop, the Mercado de Sonora, a center of commerce for alternative medicine and religion. While people tend to focus on the witchcraft aspect of this market or the cult of Santa Muerte paraphernalia, what caught my eye there were the stalls with burlap sacks full of centuries-old herbal remedies to help people sort out a variety of ailments.
Alejandro mentioned that a lot of the vendors in the Mercado de Sonora weren’t too keen on tourists poking around with their cameras, so I waited until we were in the more lighthearted sections of the market before taking pictures. Pictured above is a market stall full of all things Lucha Libre.
Piñatas for sale at the Mercado de Sonora.
It was a short walk across a bridge over a road to our next stop, the gigantic Mercado de la Merced. The highlight of La Merced Market was the food. Pictured above are dried chili peppers.
Spices and nuts for sale at the Mercado de la Merced.
Seeing various moles in different forms made me even more excited for my eventual return to Oaxaca. Mole is not much to look at, but once you’ve had a good one, there’s no going back.
As a U.S. resident, it’s both uncomfortable and liberating to visit places where goods are not all tightly wrapped in plastic.
Buckets of candy at the Mercado de la Merced.
Pinatas for sale at the Mercado de la Merced that were conveniently located next to some of the candy stalls.
We hopped on the metro to get to our last stop, Mercado San Juan. Alejandro prefaced our entrance into this meat market with a discussion on how people in Mexico tend to have a closer relationship with their food. It was his way of warning the potentially squeamish about what we were about to see as well as encouraging people be open to different ways of looking at food.