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RonMader


Jul 3, 2005, 5:55 AM

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Exploring Mexico's Markets

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This week I have updated the Planeta guide to Exploring Mexico's Markets
http://www.planeta.com/...exico/mexmarket.html

This is still very much a work-in-progress, so comments are welcome.

I've also created a photo gallery
http://www.flickr.com/...planeta/sets/533097/

The big questions I have regard the future of the markets. Can traditional markets compete with the Wal-Marts? While I support the local markets -- and particularly those that sell natural foods and organics -- I don't exclude trips to Sam's or other megastores in my personal shopping.

Mexico's traditional markets are IMHO one of the best things about this country. I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
Ron Mader
Planeta.com
http://www.planeta.com


(This post was edited by RonMader on Jul 3, 2005, 5:56 AM)



hoping 2

Jul 3, 2005, 3:54 PM

Post #2 of 41 (9972 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Thank you so much. I really enjoyed your article and found your references very valuable. I didn't realize there were so many organic markets, in my area, too. There is a travel program on cable. He goes to different areas and always ends up at the markets or festivals. Great places to learn about Mexico's people and culture. I have added so many places to my "to be explored" list. Please keep us informed of your future articles. Again, thank you.


Adrian

Jul 3, 2005, 8:28 PM

Post #3 of 41 (9935 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Well, Ron, I am happy that your article is a 'work-in-progress' as it doesn't really say very much at all. With regard to markets, allow me to gently remove your rose tinted spectacles for a moment.

Walk with me, Ron, to the central markets here in Downtown Tampico. The complex is adjacent to the docks and comprises 3 separate markets. Mind out for that little plaza (known locally as 'El Triangulo') as all those nice young ladies you see are of incredibly easy virtue, which may be purchased at the rate of $200 per hour (allegedly). Also, don't stray down the alleys marked as 'Privadas' behind the market. There may be many bargains in used electrical parts or tools but there are also some very shady characters down there who will readily lighten your pockets by non-peaceful means.

'El Mercado Gastronomico' is a recent structure, built some 10 years ago, and sits atop a small parking structure, opposite the old railroad terminal. It was intended to offer good dining. Alas, it is full of taquerias with their ubiquitous 'tortas de la barda' and tacos. The smell of frying permeates the air.

Mercados Hidalgo and Juarez are the principal structures and are comprised of many rows of large, single storey buildings that are subdivided into 20 pitches. Although, as in our case, one business can have many pitches (ours has 16 of the 20, but the taqueria opposite has all 20 of theirs). These buildings are all in various states of disrepair and, allegedly, have not had any remedial work done to them by the Municipality even after the whole area was flooded to a depth of 14' by Hurricaine Hilda in 1955.

In 2003, there was a proposal to thoroughly rebuild these markets. Plans were drawn up, money allocated, architects and engineers abounded for months. But, somehow, nothing ever seems to have happened. The Comision Federal de Electricidad often speaks of upgrading the pole transformers that supply the market - these frequently trip their breakers and plunge us all into a baking gloominess of fanless half-light. But, the CFE seems to have bigger fish to fry these days.

Let us stroll along Calle PJ Mendez (watch out for those rutas!), alongside the permanent stores. We can see the mercado on the other side of the narrow street, although our passage along the sidewalk is impeded by daily throngs of 'ambulantes' who sell food, watches, pirate DVD's, shoe repair services etc, and generally make it difficult to walk along peaceably.

Turning down the short side street of Calle Benito Juarez we stand opposite the office of the Railroad workers union on Calle Heroes de Nacozari - with a plaque explaining their heroism. This street, in heavy rain, is flooded to a depth of about 18" (which is why the kerbs are so high). The storm drain (such as it is) becomes blocked with refuse and the 2" pipe cannot handle the raging torrential downpour.

If we are lucky, we may witness the daily battles of the market's merchants to have their supply vehicles unload in this street. Strong young (and old) men with pushcarts (or diabolitos) offer their muscles for a small tip to negotiate the broken sidewalks in to the market proper. If we are around in the afternoon we may see a meat delivery. This is usually an open pickup, blood dripping from the joint of the body and tailgate, with freshly hacked, very large pieces of cow aboard. The head is usually in one piece and the departed animal may be said to have a surprised expression about its countenance. Guts are wrapped in large gelatinous sheets of something and carried by hand whilst the sides of beef are carried on the shoulder. The smell and flies defy description.

Mercado Juarez used to have a very large and imposing central plaza. This is now almost completey filled with herberias and other related stalls, making the porter's route with his pushcart eveer more tortuous. Indeed, this mercado seems to specialise in taquerias and herberias (with their macabre ghoulishness and implications of brujeria). One may purchase all manner of things to assist one's incantations for luck, love or happiness.

Being a port city, Tampico has a large fishing fleet that lands superb fish and seafood on a daily basis - for this, Mercado Juarez is justly famous. However, the selection of fresh vegetables is mediocre, to say the least, and although the fruits are often better than those in places such as HEB or Soriana, many folk now consider that it is worth a few pesos more to shop in a clean, air conditioned supermarket with everything under one roof and a guarantee of consistent quality. Additionally, the Mexican chains such as Soriana and Comercial Mexicana now offer clothes and household goods in their larger stores - even WalMart is facing competition in Tampico.

This puts pressure on all us merchants - our small business venture, a cristaleria, is looking for new avenues and will probably branch out more towards restaurant supply. One thing is almost certain, the markets cannot survive in their current location and in their current state for more than 15-20 years more. The Municipality wishes to further improve and invest in the downtown area to attract tourism - the markets are an embarrassing stain on that aspiration, especially as they contain nothing in the way of arts and crafts that may excite the interest of the tourist. They are 'hardscrabble' (as Bubba might say) in that they are functional places for the poorer citizens of this fair town.

They are certainly not picturesque or charming. But they provide a livelihood for many (including me) and I would hate to see them die due to apathy.

Adrian


RonMader


Jul 4, 2005, 2:44 AM

Post #4 of 41 (9911 views)

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Re: [Adrian] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Thank you both for the helpful feedback.

Adrian, have you thought of writing an article for Mexico Connect?
Ron Mader
Planeta.com
http://www.planeta.com


Gayla

Jul 8, 2005, 9:58 AM

Post #5 of 41 (9796 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Ron

I've spent more hours in Mexican markets than I really care to admit and must say you've taken on a daunting task with your web site. Good luck with it. Below are some thoughts on some of the markets I've visited.

The markets in Oaxaca are truly special. This past October I was in Oaxaca and had the opportunity to spend time at Abastos, 20 de Noviembre, Tlalcolula, Teotitlan del Valle and Ocotlan. I was at all of them in the week proceeding Dia de los Muertos, the energy level was amped up more than a little :-).

The market in Teotitlan del Valle is daily (M-F) and usually concludes by Noon. It's a very small, intimate market lacking a lot of the general chaos of some of the other, larger markets. It's a lot like T de V, neat and tidy. The purpose of this market does seem to be to service the local community more than anything else.

At Tlalcolula we were the only non-indgenous people and were regarded with some level of suspicion. I think you need to be a market enthusiast to enjoy this one, and would err on the side of caution when advising people to visit here. There were a number of interesting chiles, particularly some that are more usually seen in the Ismthus than other parts of Mexico, coffee beans in various stages of process (i.e. raw, roasted, ground). I would not trust the fondas; sanitation was pretty suspect. Most vendors were open to photographs and no one wanted more than $20 pesos.

Ocotlan was pretty cool, well, except for the vendor that wanted to charge one of my companions $20 USD for a photo ;-). This was the one where we encountered the most resistence to photographs even though one of our group was a local. Many vendors simply said "no", while another lot would only allow photos of their products, or their body below the neck. Lots and lots of flowers for Dia de los Muertos were coming into the market making for a stunningly beautiful sight. It's also worth stopping in to visit the vendors inside the permanent market building that's part of this market, with these particular vendors being open everyday. Inside are an assortment of bakery, tortilla, chocolate/coffee vendors, along with some pretty good looking fondas and lunch counters. This is a very fun market because it's small enough not to be overwhelming and large enough so that there is a very wide variety of products with many unique things.

As I'm sure you're well aware, the 2 primary market days for Abastos are Tuesday and Saturday. I would not recommend the average tourist hit this market on either of those 2 days. First it is total chaos, and second, from a safety standpoint I think novice market tourists would be better off on a lighter market day. Their chances of being the victim of a crime (can you say pickpocketing) is reduced. That being said, Abastos is one of the best places to pick up really good quality Chile Pasilla Oaqueno, the smoked chile Oaxaca is famous for. Price is usually around $20 USD for a kilo of chiles. Mayor Domo has a branch in Abastos where is is possible to watch them grinding and blending their chocolate mixes. It's also possible to purchase beautiful green glazed pottery that is lead free, though it probably helps to speak Spanish for this last purchase since most of the vendors don't.

I actually prefer 20 de Noviembre because it is smaller and more manageable. Besides, Chiguita's is located in 20 de Noviembre and I happen to like their nieves, kind of a refreshing treat after a hard day of tourist power shopping :-).

Last October I also had the chance to visit the Abastos in Guadalajara, Mercado Libertad in GDL and a street tianguis in Ajijic. (Thank you Esperanza for being a great tour guide). The Ajijic tianguis was a real treat with all manner of fresh produce, some pretty good looking raw chickens, some of the BEST yogurt I've ever had the pleasure of eating and the usual array of bootlegged CDs, cassettes and computer software, not to mention the ubiquitous underwear, cheap jewlery, and plaid nylong bags. This market covers a few blocks up and down a cobblestone street and runs some good energy, making it an engaging place to shop.

What can you say about the Abastos and Mercado Libertad in Guadalajara? If you're a market junkie, they should be on the must see list, definitely falls into the catagory of "local color". Abastos is also, clearly the commercial arm catering more to the food/restaurant trade. I saw, and tasted, some produce items I'd never seen before. I would have no difficulty eating from any of the fondas in this Abastos. Mercado Libertad is, of course, in every tourist guide. I liked it, but there is a little under-current of danger here. The pace is very fast and if you gawk around like a tourist I think you could set yourself up to be a crime victim. The point being you need to pay attention to what and who is around you and keep your senses about you. But that being said, you'll find the most amazing assortment, from shoes to saddles to every conceivable piece of electronics to clothing, to candy, not to mention some pretty yummylooking fondas and food booths.

This past January I was in Monterrey and had the opportunity to visit their Abastos market (every city of any size seems to have an Abastos). I wouldn't recommend this for tourists because, frankly, there just isn't that much too see. This is primarily a commerical concern for local reataurants, food service and the trade. It reminded me a lot of the produce markets in Los Angeles and San Fransico; large terminals where fresh products are arriving from all over to be resold.

Two weeks ago I was in Michoacan, once again doing the market thing. Daily street market in Patzcuaro is great, mostly food oriented. Had my first experience with nanches - rather bland and tastelss, and leaving a starchy film in the mouth. Tiny wild cherries and blackberries were in season. Bionicos at breakfast were a wonderful treat. We also stopped at a local street market (next to the Catholic church) in Quiroga on our way back to Guadalajara and had some terrific mole tacos for breakfast.

Good, bad or indifferent, Mexican markets serve a purpose. They keep the connection between the land and the people alive, which from the perspective of food traditions is a necessary thing. By and large, Mexicans (and the French and Italians) still understand the connection between where and how their food is grown, how it gets to market, where it comes from and how it affects their survival. Contraste that with the impact that Agri-business has made on most Americans and there are several generations who don't know where their food comes from, don't understand how it is produced and don't really care. Having spent 15 years basically feeding kids, I can't tell you how many times I heard kids tell me that tomatoes and cucumbers grow in the back room at the local Safeway. Or, for the adults, most can't tell you where a cut in that plastic sealed package of meat comes from, nor do they understand much about their meat supply since it no longer roams the front or back yards. But I digress.............Mexican markets are a cultural connection between many worlds and serve many purposes. The larger and more commerical the city, the larger and more commerical their Abastos operations (with the possible exception of Abastos in Oaxaca). These markets reflect their local communities, providing both a cultural and social connection. The fact that these markets can hold such an allure for foreigners and tourists speaks not only to their exoticness, but also to that lost connection many of us have with our food supply.

While in Monterrey I also had the chance to visit one of the local H*E*B stores. This is a chain out of Texas and is kind of like a much smaller version of a Sam's or Costco. It was still a better experience than going to my local Albertson's. There was some heart and soul compared to the rather sterile experience of shopping a U.S. supermarket. So far in every Mexican market I've visited, I've been a small fish in a small pond. When I go to Sam's, Wal-Mart or Costco I'm still a small fish, but in a very, very big pond, and that, frankly, can be overwhelming. I'd much rather be connected with my shopping environment. (And for the record, here, NOB, I don't shop the big stores, I still shop small groceries, bakeries, go to a meat market, go to a fish market and visit local farmers markets)

Didn't mean to ramble, but this is a subject near and dear to my heart.


DoDi2


Jul 8, 2005, 10:55 AM

Post #6 of 41 (9779 views)

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Re: [Gayla] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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"At Tlalcolula we were the only non-indgenous people and were regarded with some level of suspicion. I think you need to be a market enthusiast to enjoy this one, and would err on the side of caution when advising people to visit here."

I think they may have been interested to see you there just as you would have looked twice at them if you ran into them at your local Safeway. But tourists do regularly visit Tlacolula market.

I went there with my Oaxacan friends who had just harvested some albacar (basil) and wanted to sell it. Oaxacans don't generally eat basil, but the market sellers and store owners like to keep a small bunch of it displayed since it's believed to bring good luck and attract clients.

We piled on the back of a camioneta with the other vendadoras with produce and flowers rolled up in petates. There were occasional questions to me in spanish from the other ladies but mainly they all were talking in zapotec, with a lot of laughing and obviously they were recounting very interesting news and gossip. At that point I resolved that someday I will learn zapotec since I missed out on a lot during the ride.

We got to the market, my friends unrolled the petate at a good spot and we commenced to make little bunches of basil tying them with strips of dry corn husk that we had brought with us. My friend corrected me when she saw that I was being rather measly about the amount of basil in my bunches... she said that the senoras would not be happy with such sorry looking things, so I got with the program and pretty soon I was selling 'em 'uno por dos pesos, dos por tres'.

I did very well! And my friend tells me that the ladies still ask for me, wondering what happened to her gabacha helper.

While sitting on the petate selling albacar I remember seeing a tourist couple walk by. The stood right in front with thier backs turned to me while they took a picture of a boy selling balloons. I kept hoping they'ed turn around and see me so I could get my picture taken, but they walked on and never noticed me ;-)

But believe me... the local people in Tlacolula or in any of the other Oaxacan markets won't be suspicious of people just because they are from other countries. I think that's a misinterpretation.

As far as pickpockets etc., yes in the markets you should watch your bag. I remember one time when a tourist had his fanny pack stolen in the Ocotlan market. It caused quite an uproar and a big (and sympathetic) crowd gathered around him while the police ran off to try and catch the thieves. Just use common sense, but there's nothing to be nervous about.

I'm surprised about the vendor who wanted $20 for a photo. I wonder if he understood what he was being asked, if he did then he was being a jerk about it. The Oaxacans I know would have just laughed if someone wanted to take thier picture, and probably would have had a good time joking and telling thier friends about it afterwords.

Thanks for the very interesting post Gayle... I share your enthusiasm for Mexico markets!


Gayla

Jul 8, 2005, 12:14 PM

Post #7 of 41 (9754 views)

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Re: [DoDi2] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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What a great story :-)). Loved it. I actually liked Tlalcolula, and I'm sure we were something of a novelty the day we were there. Bought a variety of pan dulce (the name of which now escapes me), some chapulines and some cal.

Yeah, we were pretty surprised at the request for $20 USD in Ocotlan. In fact we were so surprised we asked again just to be sure there wasn't a misunderstanding about US dollars vs. Mexican pesos. There wasn't. My friend had a very expensive looking camera and some fancy equipment, I suspect the woman (a flower vendor) that wanted $20 thought he might have been more economically advantaged than he actually is.

I have never felt unsafe in a Mexican market and know enough about being careful. But I am continually amazed at the comments I get from others who find them dirty, stinky, noisy, unorganized, intimidating, or scary. I could probably write a dissertation on why some people get spooked and weird when dealing with cultural differences, but there really is no need to go there. A little good old common sense and basic personal safety does wonders. Why people go on vacation and then proceed to do stuff they would never think about doing at home has long been a mystery to me <sigh>. A Mexican market is a full on assault - in a good way - on all the senses.

Next time I'm in Oaxaca I really want to check out the market at Etla, I understand it's pretty good.


DoDi2


Jul 8, 2005, 4:18 PM

Post #8 of 41 (9708 views)

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Re: [Gayla] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Hi Gayla,

I've never been to Etla on market day, but I've visited there to see the church (a friend's brother is, or was, the priest there and he was going to let us go up to the top to see the view which is supposed to be really nice, but he wasn't in so we didn't get the keys... unfortunately). There is a restaurant there which I highly recommend it. Everything is great, thier mole was the best I ever had in a restaurant and my friends ordered estufada and enchaladas which also were execellent. I don't know the name of the restaurant, but when you come down the stairs from the church you just turn and go up the street where the businesses are and the restaurant is right there. The kitchen is a small open area right next to the cash register with big pots sitting on the stove and there's about 8 or so tables. It's not fancy, just down home good authentic Oaxacan food.

I have a question about the flower vender in Ocotlan (the area around Ocotlan is my Oaxaca stomping ground).. was it one of the ladies standing up in the covered flower stall area (not in the inside market, they're outside but have a semi-permanent area for flowers) or was it one of the ladies sitting on the ground on a side street area? I know some of them and none of the ladies I know would have done that to you, except one. I'm wondering if it was her.... ;-b small world if it was.


RonMader


Jul 9, 2005, 6:20 AM

Post #9 of 41 (9654 views)

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Re: [DoDi2] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Thanks for all the comments!

Regarding Tlalcolula ... Oaxacans say that it is also known as Tokyolula as it was a major center for imported goods (much not high quality) a few decades ago

Market photos ... and more!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta

(This post was edited by RonMader on Jul 9, 2005, 6:22 AM)


Anonimo

Jul 10, 2005, 12:04 PM

Post #10 of 41 (9558 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Thanks, Ron, for initiating one of the best threads ever on Mexconnect. We have very vivid memories of markets large and small, but the most memorable might be that of Santiago Tianguistenco, near Metepec, Edo de México. It's a Mexican food lover's heaven.



Saludos,
Anonimo


RonMader


Apr 13, 2006, 11:54 AM

Post #11 of 41 (9323 views)

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Market photos

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As a FYI, the gallery for Mexico Markets has now been viewed more than 3,000 times!
http://www.flickr.com/.../planeta/sets/533097

Also, this week we have launched two new galleries highlighting a temporary holiday market in Oaxaca City
http://www.flickr.com/...ts/72057594104104186

And the Sánchez Pascuas Market
http://www.flickr.com/...ts/72057594106271609


smokesilver

Apr 14, 2006, 9:16 AM

Post #12 of 41 (9253 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Market photos

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Great pics. Thanks


geri

Apr 14, 2006, 11:07 AM

Post #13 of 41 (9218 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Hey Ron, I never heard it called that. Funny! It does have the reputation of being a market with the MOST skillful of thieves. It's very popular, especially on Sundays, with tourists (promoted in most guidebooks, I think). Way in the back where the women sit on their knees surrounded by artistically arranged produce, I've never found one amenable to photos...at any price. BUT I have the colorful images in my memory. I warn my houseguests about Tlacalula's thieves and of course most of them come back proving me wrong. One woman made friends with one of the vendors there and went every day for a week or so. Finally, she got robbed of EVERYTHING including her passport and FM-3. The positive (up) side of warning tourists about thievery is to cut down on the action. If there are no prey, there are no predataors. Once you are robbed, your attitude changes a bit.

A die-hard people watcher, I stood transfixed for days in front of the Benito Juarez market just south of Oaxaca's zocalo (after being hit). The game was that the gordita, aproned women selling chapulines would saunter up and down the sidewalk, noting where tourists stashed their money, then they would hand-signal to one of the women at the basket of chapulines who would then alert a group of young men (I thought she was waving at me!) who gathered around, of all things, a sidewalk stand selling hair ornaments. As the unsuspecting tourist walked by, the jovenes would crowd around as if trying to get into the market and relieve him/her of his/her wallet. Whether it was stashed in a backpack, pocket, or fanny pack, they knew the exact location, having been told by the grandmotherly chapuline vendors. The successful snatcher would then toss the "loot" to a compadre inside the market. I had to admire the coordination. The traffic police nearby knew what was going on. They could possibly be family members. Anyway, I think this particular operation has closed down. I check every now and then.


Marta R

Apr 14, 2006, 1:58 PM

Post #14 of 41 (9174 views)

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Re: [geri] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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This reminds me of a story. When I was a kid, my Tia Maria came to visit from Merida, bringing her son’s fiancee and the girl’s mother up to San Francisco to shop for the girl’s trousseau. Tia Maria came from the side of the family that knew what to do with money (as opposed to my own, which simply threw it away), and as a result had buckets of it. They stayed with us because that’s what you do, even if it means three kids and five adults sharing a two-bedroom one-bath house. Didn’t matter: Tia Maria was wonderful and looked like my abuelita: a softly folded Lebanese face with sharp brown eyes, and a spherical body cloaked in black and footed in those black high-topped old lady lace-up shoes. When we went out, she carried a shawl regardless of the weather, so that she wouldn’t get air on her espalda and catch cold.

Okay, so we’re off to San Francisco shopping for the trousseau. We visited some mid-range department stores, but Tia Maria wasn’t happy until we went into I. Magnin. Anybody remember I. Magnin? Art deco, opulent, hushed, tremendously expensive, with a staff so well-bred that they didn’t turn up their noses at my black-bombazine-covered Tia and her tired, sweaty entourage. A saleslady brought my aunt a chair. My aunt gave her a ten dollar bill. People, this was in maybe 1959 – ten bucks was huge. Service, good already, improved by leaps and bounds. Sales staff scooped up armloads of clothes and followed the fiancee to the dressing rooms, and as the pile of expensive clothes grew, my mother got more and more worried. “How are you going to pay for this?” she whispered to Maria, who just shrugged her off. Eventually the trying-on and picking-out was over, and the saleslady brought the bill to where Maria sat. If I remember, it came to something close to seventy-six gazillion dollars. My mother almost fainted. Tia Maria put the bill down, looked sharply around the sales floor for any ladrones or low-life jovenes – then she unbuttoned the top button on her dress and disappeared into her own bosom. It was an amazing sight, my aunt with head, shoulders, wrists and hands buried in her dress, and her elbows working away. Mom was mortified. After what seemed a long time, Maria emerged from her clothes with her money, which she kept rolled in a cotton bag safety-pinned (five big pins) to the inside of her corset. With great dignity she composed herself, glanced at the bill again, and began to peel off hundred dollar bills. I wanted to cheer.

The moral of the story: if you are used to shopping in Mexican mercados, you keep your money in a very, very safe place, and don’t worry too much about maintaining your personal dignity when you need to fetch it out.

Marta


lmaxine

Apr 15, 2006, 9:02 AM

Post #15 of 41 (9108 views)

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Re: [Gayla] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Gayla, my friend and I are market-freaks, and love most of them. But, the one in Ocotlan, Oaxaca was the most uncomfortable place we'd ever been to. We were the only foreigners there and got really bad vibes, couldn't wait to leave. That was about 11 years ago, maybe it's more enjoyable now.
"He upon whose heart the dust of Mexico has lain will find no peace in any other land." Malcolm Lowry


geri

Apr 15, 2006, 7:07 PM

Post #16 of 41 (9048 views)

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Re: [Marta Randall] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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That is a GREAT story. I keep my money in the same place on market days (sin corset), but I have to admit I'm embarrassed when I dig in for it and sort of turn my back to people.


Bubba

Apr 16, 2006, 8:40 AM

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Re: [Gayla] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Well, now I like to visit markets wherever I go in Mexico and many are colorful and interesting. Perhaps it´s because I was lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years and shop there as well as Seattle and other west coat cities famed for fresh foods of many types, but to compare shopping for fresh foods of all types in Mexico with shopping in coastal Northern California or the northwest is silly at best. Most of the municipal markets and tianguis I have visited in Mexico - no matter where - are simply re-selling produce purchased at the nearest abastos with some local stuff thrown in by area farmers. To even consider comparing these Mexican markets and their ordinary produce with such shrines to great organic foods as the Berkeley Bowl, Real Foods, Whole Foods Markets or a thousand west coast farmers´ markets selling the freshest produce. meats and fish under restrictions that could never be applied in Mexico, borders on self-deceit,

Just last weekend I approached the Patzcuaro municipal market with great hopes and left there with an empty bag wondering how 400 diferent vendors could make a living selling the same cloned roma tomatoes and other fruits and vegetables indistinctive from each other and equally lacking in taste.

There are exceptions to this mediocrity such as the Tampico or Veracruz fish markets and in such places as Chiapas and Oaxaca but it´s tough to drive three days just to go to a local market.


Anonimo

Apr 16, 2006, 8:59 AM

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Bubba, although I would agree that the Roma tomatoes are nearly tasteless, I have found other wonderfully flavorsome vegetables, in the same markets.
The acelgas, zanahorias, even the calabacitas are choice. Potatoes are mostly superior to what we ate in The Old Country. The lechuga orejona is poor quality, but the fruits, especially the mangos and the piñas, are top rank. There's a lot of vegetables there we haven't yet tried because we are unsure of how to prepare and cook them. Huauzontles were available. I admit that the only time I tried those, at a vegetarian restaurant in Mexico, DF, the reminded me of battered, deep-fried Brillo Pads on long wire stalks.

Maybe your expectations for a Pátzcuaro vegetal Paradise were unrealistic. I'm not yet so jaded that I don't enjoy most visits to the mercado here in Pátzcuaro.

It just goes to show, once again,



Saludos,
Anonimo


Gayla

Apr 16, 2006, 9:45 AM

Post #19 of 41 (8987 views)

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Re: [lmaxine] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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A lot changes in 11 years, including the market at Ocotlan :-). I think you'd be surprised if you revisited. For us, the energy was much darker at Tlalcolula than Ocotlan and I felt more comfortable at Ocotlan than Tlalcolula.

But I know what you mean. About 20 years ago I was in a market in Puebla (don't ask me which one, it's been too long and I can't remember) with 2 other women, one of whom was a blond. We were the only foreigners in the market. As we got deeper into the market we attracted more and more stares, especially my blond friend. She saw some jewelry she liked and asked the vendor how much. The reply she got was pretty much "For you blondie it's (whatever the price was)". I remember being a little surprised at the response and the tone in which it was delivered, with "blondie" being delivered with more than a little derision. We were being watched with more than a little idle curiosity; I was picking up some weird vibes. I finally asked my 2 companions if they were aware of what was going on and how they felt being in that market. All 3 of us agreed we were not exactly feeling very comfortable and the vendors were not all that welcoming or enthusiastic about selling anything to us. I think we were more aprehensive than anything and not in any real danger. For us it was better to trust our gut feeling and beat a hasty retreat than to flirt to extensively with potential danger, real or perceived. By the time we stumbled out of the market we were pretty relieved.

That has been my one and only bad market experience in Mexico. I had never felt like that in any market, nor have I experienced anything similar since. I think that if I could find my way back to that particular market in Puebla that I would find things are much different today than they were 20 years ago. You'd probably find similar changes in Ocotlan. We were not the only foreigners in Ocotlan when I was there, but there were still very few of us.


Bubba

Apr 16, 2006, 10:17 AM

Post #20 of 41 (8978 views)

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Re: [Anonimo] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Anonimo & Gayla:

I respect both of you but you are missing my point.

Of course, we lived in a part of the United States (San Francisco) where extraordinary vegetables are grown commercially so I am spoiled. If one were blessed with the beauty of living in Utah or Arkansas one would have an every day eye-feast but eat food a hog would disdain.

Someone compared food available in the U.S. unfavorably with that available here and that triggered my response. To compare the quality of the meat, produce and seafood here with that in the United States (or Europe) is folly. The meat, seafood and produce available in the United States and Europe is so far superior to that available here as to not merit discourse.

What is happening here is the "rose colored glasses" phenomenon which I describe as the "Coc-ola Syndrome.

Everybody knows that Coca-Cola tastes best in 6 ounce glass bottles (only made, by the way, in Mexico these days). This is because it is supposed to taste better because it is reminiscent of the Coke we bought at Doc Stabler´s Standard Oil Station in 1953 when it was hot and miserable and that Coke was so cold it was near freezing and the next thrill in life was Country Club Malt Liquor and then being third (out of 20) in line to have sex with Betty Sue Whats-her-face who had no particular male preferences except perhaps the varsity football team and would always ask you if this was your first time even if you had been third in line last week as well.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, there was an African-American ancient gent who rode around my South Alabama hometown in a mule-drawn wagon selling such South Alabama splendors as field peas, collard greens, turnips and turnip greens, what we called ¨string beans" in those days and, in season, tomatoes that were so delicious that eating them was a ritual. I swear to God his produce was better than any produce one could ever buy at the weekly white-boy curb market even though that is where he sold his surplus.

Yáll be walkin´´round these here Mexican markets with high and unreasonable expectations. Therefore, the crap you are buying tastes better than it actually is. It´s all in your head. Get over it.


(This post was edited by Bubba on Apr 16, 2006, 10:25 AM)


RonMader


Apr 16, 2006, 11:08 AM

Post #21 of 41 (8952 views)

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Re: [RonMader] Market photos

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FYI, I just learned that the holiday market here in Oaxaca City will be sending representatives to Mexico City's Zocalo in May.


sfmacaws


Apr 16, 2006, 3:21 PM

Post #22 of 41 (8913 views)

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Re: [Anonimo] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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Like most things in life, some stuff is better in one place and other stuff is better somewhere else. But until they start using corn syrup in their Co-cola down in Mexico, those 6 oz glass bottles ARE better than the stuff up north.

I also deplore the tasteless Roma tomatoes, they are everywhere. I'm encouraged because I now can find beefsteak type tomatos in a lot of grocery stores and even some markets. The zanahorias though are the sweetest, most flavorful and delicious I've ever had, and they are like that just about everywhere in the Republic. Why the carrots in the US are such tasteless, cardboard chunks of crunch only, I don't know but they are. and Bubba, I too am from the fabled foodie heaven of SF and the carrots at the Farmers Market at the foot of Market St. the carrots at Whole Foods and the carrots at the Marin Farmers market are still tasteless cardboard, it's a disgrace.


Jonna - Mérida, Yucatán




Bubba

Apr 16, 2006, 5:30 PM

Post #23 of 41 (8876 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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As I write this, there is a pre-summer thunderstorm approaching Ajijic over gorgeous skys reflecting upon the garden and adjacent Jacaranda trees and I was watching this television show on StarChoice from Tuscany about olive oil and realizing that I could easily pull up roots here and move to the Loire Valley and buy a home for less than a similar home would cost me at Lake Chapala and knew in my heart that I would never leave here for Europe because, despite the fact that the food here will never compete with the food there , I need that constant sunshine and you guys can make fun of the Lake Chapala area as long as you wish and I will reply:

The only thing wrong ith France is the French. The only thing wrong with Lake Chapala is its discovery by foreigners. So, bring me you deprived from Peoria. As long as I can close my gate and they don´t bug me, we can get along.


Bubba

Apr 17, 2006, 5:47 AM

Post #24 of 41 (8822 views)

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Re: [sfmacaws] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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We will just have to disagree on the carrot thing. When Bubba worked in the Napa Valley, it was his habit to drink a glass of freshly made carrot juice daily for luch. A sweeter, finer veggie juice was never produced on this planet. No, Jonna, there was no vodka in the carrot juice (although I did add quite a bit of mashed garlic) so don´t give me no lip.

While the carrots down here are good they are no better than the carrots I bought in the Bay Area IMHO, Now if you want to have a contest on who can find the first tasty turnips, corn*, heirloom tomatoes, rutabagas, parsnips or Finnish gold potatoes (any kind of really great potato, for that matter) here´s the deal. I´ll go to the Safeway in St. Helena, California and you choose any tianguis in Mexico. I will be checking out of the express line while you´re still walking past row upon endless row of roma tomato clones.

However, instead of that, why don´t you bring me a case of watermelon rind pickles and Carolina vinegar based BBQ sauce when you come back from the states the next time and I will trade you for some really fine Purepecha salsa I bought last week in Patzcuaro.

You know I ain´t leaving Mexico for no parsnips.

*I must admit a certain fondness for the rustic, not-very-sweet corn I buy in the street in Mexico with the mayo, grated cheese,cumin and red pepper, That U.S. corn is kind of wimpy

NOTE: I also don´t agree that corn syrup makes a finer Coc-ola. What makes a finer Co-cola is seven year old dark Havana rum and some lime juice and I know you and I both know that for sure.


(This post was edited by Bubba on Apr 17, 2006, 5:49 AM)


geri

Apr 17, 2006, 8:03 AM

Post #25 of 41 (8799 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Exploring Mexico's Markets

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I know you don't like Oaxaca, Bubba, and I have to agree that the meat here is pretty tasteless. I think it's because they don't shoot the animals full of hormones in stockyards. Also pesticides, fertilizers and anti-biotics aren't used to the extent they are in large farm industries. I'm talking about meat and produce in "my" market that come from small farms here in Oaxaca's Central Valles. It's not an eco or health thing, purely economic. The family farmer can't afford Monsanto tech. But, of course, that's changing. The family farmer also can't support his ever-increasing family.
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