Another thing that makes Mexico City very interesting are its typical bustling markets. They are found everywhere, in every city and village, but here they reach a higher level in size, merchandise and multitude.
“The City of Madness”, zo portretteert correspondent Diego Faes Mexico City. In een reeks voor Zonder Graten vertelt hij over zijn ervaringen in de hoofdstad van Mexico.
Chapter 3: Walking with cars, witchcraft and dancing in the metro station
The most common known example is Tepito, a tianguis or open-air market near the center of the city that sells literally everything, either counterfeit goods or robbed originals. The neighbourhood is sprawled with stands from the moment you step out of the subway station. Everywhere the eye can see there’s motion, where the ear can hear there’s noise, where the nose can smell there’s odour. An enormous amount of people are concentrated in the small streets where vendors try to fit their ramshackle stands next to others. Shoppers walk next to cabs, motorcyclists and buses who in their turn squeeze through the mass, with miraculously little casualties. Tepito runs almost independently their own community with small-time organizations electing their own leaders. More than a neighbourhood in the great city of Mexico, it has the likes of a communal society found in remote, indigenous villages.
The market is well described by the following saying: “En Tepito todo se vende, menos la dignidad.” (In Tepito everything is for sale, except dignity). Most of the things for sale are likely to be of very poor quality. For instance, you can buy pirate CDs for as cheap as 2.5 pesos (0.15 euros), Armani t-shirts for 30 pesos (1.85) and a pair of Levi trousers for 300 pesos (18.50 euros).
“Eating here has a strong negative reputation that, according to the bad tongues, make you either vomit or shit straight fluid.”
Obviously, the shopper can’t go out without having a little snack here and there. A delicacy found in this market neighbourhood are steamed chicken legs and mollejas (the chicken’s stomach). Usually you’ll find a guy pushing a cart around with two giant plastic bags, each one filled with both chicken parts. If that’s too exotic, you can always buy three hotdogs for 15 pesos (not 1 euro). But don’t ask where the meat has to come from to cost that little. Further there are basket tacos that have the reputation of sending you straight to the hospital beds, sincronizadas (ham and cheese flour wraps) and grilled hamburgers. Eating here has a strong negative reputation that, according to the bad tongues, make you either vomit or shit straight fluid. As for me, I didn’t encounter any of that. Although I have to admit I’ve been training my poor stomach for a while now.
A similar but more rough market neighbourhood is La Merced. Just as with Tepito, once you step out of the metro station you’re completely disorientated for stands of various merchandise install themselves starting from the metro entrance/exit all the way till the eye can see. In order to orientate one has to find the main avenue crossing through La Merced neighbourhood which is found by literally walking towards daylight at the end of the collection of stands. However, once you’re standing at that avenue you’re further quizzed because the stands take up the whole sidewalk so that people are forced to walk on the street next to racing cars and buses. That’s the case on both sides. It’s an image on repeat.
“Those interested in young green leafs can find an extended gamma of under-aged prostitutes who are not easily seen in public, but are arranged to you by specialized pimps.”
An interesting aspect found in this neighbourhood and not in Tepito is its large population of pleasure ladies. They parade in line next to the stands waiting for costumers. And honestly, they look horrible. Your appetite for sex would vanish instantly. I’d say they lack a bit of style… and a diet. Because many of them have ‘flubbery’ flesh surpluses. Those interested in young green leafs can find an extended gamma of under-aged prostitutes who are not easily seen in public, but are arranged to you by specialized pimps. Since La Merced is a tolerance zone for sex business, rarely police shows up.
This part of town hosts a number of different markets such as the Flower Market, an enormous traditional food market and Mercado Sonora. The last one deserves a closer look. It is in vox populi known as the market of witchcraft. As the word says, the market sells everything you need to heal mental illnesses, skin ailments, a crushed heart, diabetes, bone infections, etc. in the form balms, herbal medicine, incense, talismans and teas. Some of the products reach the level of absurd such as incense for diabetes and depression, and dead colibris on a leash for prosperity.
Not only to cure illnesses, but also all sorts of objects are sold for practicing santeria and other syncretic religious practices. A venerated saint who is very popular here and also in Tepito is La Santa Muerte (The Holy Death). This figure is the product of syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs and represents a deep affection of Mexicans for the afterlife. In Mexico there’s always been a more intense and complicated relationship with the defunct as proved in Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrated on November 2nd. However, La Santa Muerte goes beyond its representation of death and serves as common saint who is venerated with the intention of requesting prosperity, safety, health and even justified harm to others. She is most popular in lower working classes and criminals.
Beside alternative medicine there’s also a large section of exotic and endangered animals. For instance, you’ll find a flock of peacocks crammed together into a cage, large turtles that are supposed to be swimming in the sea soaking in a small rectangular bathtub and stirred up cocks destined for battle. Ultimately, you can even find interesting conscious-alternating products such as salvia and peyote.
After visiting those two frenzy, crowded market neighbourhoods it was time to descend into the subway station. The metro never ceases to amaze me. While changing from one line to another I first heard a band playing a variety of Latin American genres and later another one playing fast-speed ska/punk/rock. The band members of the first one seemed all to be closing their eyes, but it was not until after I looked closely that the entire band was blind and/or visually impaired. And they played smooth. There was at least one person dancing from the entire audience. The ska band really amazed me with the huge audience they attracted. So many people were listening to the feel-good up-tempo rhythms of the band that they literally obstructed an essential passage for commuters. Once a dozen of men started a moshpit (!!!) it got worse, and the whole subway station filled up with people trying to get a glimpse of the scene and others pushing their way through towards their connecting lines. It’s all in a day’s work. You’re never bored in La Gran Ciudad…