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Posts Tagged ‘markets’

Nothing like stopping in Mercado Benito Juárez at Casilda Aguas Regionales midway through a morning filled with errands.  The posted list of fruit drinks is mind boggling:  Horchata, horchata con tuna, guanabana, melón, limón, sandía, jamaica, limón on chía, tamarindo, piña guayaba, kiwi, coco, crema de coco, durazno, ciruela, lichie, mandarina, mango, and maracuya.P1260091

Translated:  Rice-based drink, rice-based drink with prickly pear cactus fruit, soursop, cantaloupe, lime, watermelon, hibiscus, lime with chia, tamarind, pineapple, guava, kiwi, coconut, coconut cream, peach, plum, lychee, mandarin orange, mango, and passion fruit.

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What to choose?  While I love horchata con tuna, I chose the unlisted limón con hoja santa (2nd from left in top photo) reeled off by the waitress.  It was a lime with “sacred leaf” kind of day.  Ahhh… the pause that refreshes!

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To continue the grocery shopping theme…

Why is it that of the almost 1000 varieties of bananas grown in the world, grocery stores here in el norte mostly only sell the Cavendish?  Sheesh, even the smallest mercados in Oaxaca often have at least four varieties and sometimes more (depending on the season).  After all, there are eight types of bananas cultivated in Mexico.  The states of Chiapas (35%), Tabasco (25%), and Veracruz (13%), are the major producers, followed by Michoacán (6.5%) and Jalisco (4.5%), with Guerrero (3%) and Oaxaca (3%) bringing up the rear.

A variety of bananas at a market

Bananas outside of the mercado in San Pablo Villa de Mitla, Oaxaca – November 2016

Did you know that banana plants are not trees?  They are an herb and their “trunks” are made of overlapping leaves.  As for the origin of the word “banana,” it comes from the Arabic, banan, which means finger.  Thus, it makes perfect sense that the cluster of bananas growing on “tree” is called a hand.  (For more banana facts, check out All about bananas.)

Banana

Banana “tree” outside Las Huamuches restaurant — between Santo Tomás Jalieza & San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca – February 2017

Now we come to the “heart” of the matter — the astonishing flower of the banana.  Given its resemblance in color and shape, it’s also known as a heart and is a show-stopper for anyone who has never before seen one.  It is often used in South Asian and Southeast Asian cooking, especially in curries, and a friend from El Salvador told me in his home country, the flowers are baked in the oven and eaten.  Apparently, according to this website, banana hearts are good for most everything that ails you.  Alas, while Mexico exports la flor de plátano, Moisés Molina, representative of Mexico’s Regional Association of Independent Producers and Banana Traders, lamented in 2000 that it was a pity they were consumed in China but not Mexico.

Banana flower/heart

Banana flower in San Andrés Huayapam, Oaxaca – December 2016

For those in the USA, enjoy your bananas while you can — according to Geo-Mexico, “The USA is the world’s largest importer of bananas and Mexico’s main foreign market, receiving 80% of all exports of Mexican bananas.”  Hmmm…  I wonder how long before the toxic, twittering human smokestack of polluted right-wing demagoguery wreaks havoc on that?

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Currently, View from Casita Colibrí is being brought to you from el norte.  Alas, tax season has come around again and mine need to be prepared.  Then there is never-ending house maintenance and repair.  I admit, it’s not all work and no play; being here means I get to spend time with family and friends, eat sushi, and give my regards to the Pacific Ocean. 

However, despite the ease of grocery shopping when one has use of a car, pricey supermarket herbs packaged in puny plastic boxes don’t feed my soul and delight my senses the way the stalls overflowing with fresh and dried herbs at Mercado Benito Juárez in Oaxaca do.

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Speaking of  the former governor of Oaxaca, Mexico’s much beloved five-term and only indigenous (Zapotec) president, Benito Juárez, his birthday is coming up on March 21.  He is the only individual in Mexico to have his birthday designated as a national holiday (celebrated this year on Monday, March 20). 

We would all do well to remember AND practice his famous words:  Entre los individuos, como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz.  (Among individuals, as among nations, respect for the rights of others is peace.)

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I returned to Oaxaca late Sunday night, a little dazed and confused.  Of course, getting the dreaded “red light” at customs didn’t help.  All was fine, though the word “bagels” didn’t register until someone behind me offered the word “pan” (bread), I nodded my assent, and the customs officer smiled and nodded hers.  Whew!

First on Monday morning’s “to do” list was a trip to my local market, Mercado Sánchez Pascuas.  It felt SO good to be walking again, even up hill!  Reaching my destination, completely unbidden, an “expletive deleted” popped out.  How could I have forgotten?  The mercado was in the midst of a month and a half renovation!

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This is a three million peso project that includes replacement of the roof, waterproofing of the slab area, and structural maintenance.  Most of the approximately 100 stalls have been relocated to the patio in front of the Tinoco y Palacios entrance and the parking lot at the Porfirio Díaz entrance.  The latter, I was pleased to see, found room for the annual display of poinsettia.  I will return!

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But first and foremost, food!  I found (or they found me) my favorite vendors.  They may not know my name, but they recognized and called to their gringa customer, who they haven’t seen for almost a month.  Quesillo (Oaxaca string cheese), verduras (vegetables), fruta (fruit), tamales (mole, verde, amarillo, and rajas), and salsas (green and chipotle) were purchased.

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My two shopping bags filled, I headed back down the hill to home, sweet, Oaxaca home.  It’s great to be back!  The icing on the cake, especially coming on top of the sticker shock of el norte, was the above, plus 8 bottles of beer, came to a grand total of 335 pesos — that’s $16.42 (US dollars), at today’s exchange rate.

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Sunday is market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros and I was so ready to escape the city.  No bloqueos blocked our way and Sunday traffic was even lighter than usual, thus the drive was uneventful.  In addition, though rumors of gasoline shortages have been rampant, we had no trouble filling up at one of the numerous Pemex stations along our eastbound route.  Once we arrived, we found the market was a beehive of activity, aisles had us crowded shoulder to shoulder with shoppers from Tlacolula and the surrounding villages.

The color… the energy… the bounty… the people… the smells… the street food…the life.  It was all just what the doctor ordered!  And, when I got home and turned on my computer, a documentary on market day in Tlacolula popped up on my Facebook news feed.  (h/t Zeferino Mendoza)

It may be from 2012, but not much has changed.  This Sunday open air market (tianguis) is one of the oldest continuously operating in Mesoamerica.

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Monday, I returned to Oaxaca following a mini-vacation to the state of Jalisco to visit mi amiga J in Ajijic and to attend the annual Feria Maestros del Arte in Chapala.  It’s a nice place to visit, but I must admit, its appeal escapes me.  I guess I’m spoiled by Oaxaca’s countless charms, like today’s “music to shop by” at Mercado Sánchez Pascuas.

Muzak, it most definitely is not!

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If it’s Sunday, it must be market day in Tlacolula de Matamoros.

Women doing their marketing.

Women doing their marketing, and the men who follow.

Carne for the carnivores

Carne, right off the hoof, for the carnivores.

Delicious dining for the rest of us!

And, delicious dining for all!

Another delightful domingo in Oaxaca.

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Braving 90+º F temperatures this afternoon, I headed down to the, you-can-buy-anything-you-want, Mercado Benito Juárez.  This is my “go to” market for nueces (pecans), arándanos (dried cranberries), coffee beans, chapulines (grasshoppers), fruits, and vegetables.  There is also mole, meats, fish, textiles, flowers, souvenirs, piñatas, costumes, lucha libre masks, baskets, leather goods, hats, hair-care products, jewelry, and much more — the original “mall.”

Today, all I needed was my favorite tiny Dominico bananas and a couple of avocados.  However, suspicion set in when I noticed NO double-parked vehicles or even much traffic on Las Casas.  A bloqueo (blockade)?  No.  Muy extraño (very strange).  I crossed the street and walked down to my regular entrance into the market and noticed the corrugated metal doors of the vendor stalls along the street were tightly shut and then saw a sign at the gate to the market that read…

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Closed for maintenance work!!!  No reason why, no re-opening date, and no relocation site for the vendors was given.  I flashed on visions of the six-month renovation of my neighborhood, Mercado IV Centenario.  Hmmm… does it have something to do with the aguas negras (sewage), due to a short-circuit underground that was reported last week?  I’m guessing, yes.  According to today’s report in NSS Oaxaca, there is dredging going on (Oaxaca’s version of Roto Rooter?), vendors will then clean up (disinfect?) their stalls, and the mercado will reopen tomorrow.  Por favor, keep your fingers crossed.

Update:  Mercado Benito Juárez re-opened yesterday, as promised.  According to my favorite fruit and vegetable vendor, it was closed on Wednesday due to the aguas negras problem.

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Sunday morning, walking up Avenida Morelos, The Iceman Cometh.

Truck with blocks of ice

Arriving at Mercado IV Centenario, marimba rhythms start to play

2 men playing marimba

Down to the zócalo.  As Winnie the Pooh said, “Nobody can be uncheered with a balloon.”

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Sunday morning strolls through the streets of Oaxaca always make me smile.

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Sunday is market day in Tlacolula.  The sounds and sights…

piles of gourds

The smells and tastes…

Chicken on a grill

And, most of all, the people…

Woman carrying tlayudas on head

Much needed chicken soup for my soul.

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After 6+ months of being Under construction,

today, the waiting is over!

This morning, Oaxaca’s governor, the city’s mayor, and the head of the Ministry of Tourism and Economic Development opened the newly constructed entrance on Independencia…

and welcomed vendors and shoppers to the newly renovated Mercado IV Centenario.

New stalls, with improved electrical and sanitation systems are part of this renovation project.

Vendors, including one of my favorite vegetable sellers, began moving their goods from the temporary site in Jardín Morelos to their new stalls.

After only a few hours, my vendedora de frutas already looked happily ensconced in her new digs!

There are still a few stalls waiting to be filled…

Any takers???

 

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Sunday, blogger buddy Chris and I drove out to Tlacolula for market day.  It didn’t take long to realize this wasn’t your usual Sunday market — there seemed to be twice the number vendors and twice as many shoppers.  It was the Sunday before the Días de los Muertos and this mega mercado was providing those who live in the surrounding area with everything they could possible need for their ofrendas (Day of the Dead altars).

Mounds of apples, tangerines, and other fruit.

mounds of bananas and tangerines

Rows upon rows of pan de muerto (the special Day of the Dead bread).

Pan de muerto

Wheelbarrows full of peanuts and pecans.

Wheelbarrow full of nuts

And, in the city of Oaxaca, special Muertos vendor stalls have been set up between the Benito Juárez Mercado and 5 de Mayo Mercado for city dwellers to stock up.  Intricately decorated sugar and chocolate skulls (calaveras) to satisfy the sweet tooth of Mictlantecuhtli (Goddess of Death).

Shelves of sweet calaveras

Decorated clay incense burners…

Clay three-legged incense burners

waited to burn copal resin and perfume the air with its wonderful, and now familiar, scent.

Bags and piles of copal resin

Doll house size tables were filled with miniature clay food and beverages (favorites of the departed) …

Tiny tables with miniature clay foods and beverages

and included these diminutive plates of mole and arroz (rice) — which I couldn’t resist buying for my altar!

Tiny plates of ceramic mole and arroz

And, of course, there were mounds and mounds of Cempazuchitl (marigolds), the flower of the dead, that grows wild in Oaxaca at this time of year.

Pile of marigolds

All the necessary purchases have been made, now to build my ofrenda.

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I’m back in Oaxaca… arrived last night after a brief trip to El Norte.  However,  over the last three years, culture shock (on both sides of the border) has subsided and I am struck and heartened that despite our differences, humans share so much more… especially the compulsion to make even the most common and utilitarian, beautiful.

Artist, Zio Ziegler added a little pizzazz to a car in Mill Valley… (Yes, I know, a Porche!)

Porche painted decoration

Car in Oaxaca… (Ahhh, a VW bug!)

VW bug painted with decoration

Wall in Mill Valley (also by Zio Ziegler)…

Painted horned creature riding a bike.

Wall in Oaxaca…

Savannah scene, with elephant in foreground, painted on wall.

Veggies in Mill Valley…

Vegetables in bins at outdoor market

Veggies in Oaxaca…

Vegetables mounded in mercado

From one of my favorite journalists, Linda Ellerbee:  “People are pretty much alikeIt’s only that our differences are more susceptible to definition than our similarities.”

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One of the pleasures of living here, is grocery shopping at the traditional mercados.   As the map from my local Mercado IV Centenario shows, the variety of items sold rivals any US supermarket chain.

Color coded map of Mercado IV Centenario stalls painted on wall.

The freshness and quality far exceeds anything the chains have to offer and you can’t beat the personal attention.

Woman vendor in her produce stall.

There is something comforting about being recognized and greeted by favorite vendors and gratifying about purchasing tamales proudly sold by the loving hands that made them.

White-haired woman sitting behind two plastic buckets full of tamales

However, on May 14, 2012, Mercado IV Centenario, operated by the municipio of Oaxaca de Juárez, began a much-needed major renovation.  The doors have been locked…

Chains locking double doors.

and demolition has begun.

Construction workers demolishing interior of mercado

According to a May 25th article, the project includes a new roof and bathrooms, waterproofing, installing tile floors, interior and exterior painting, and rehabilitation of the water, sanitation, and electrical systems.  In addition, an access door on the busy avenida Independencia will be constructed.

For the duration of the renovation, the merchants and their stalls have been relocated under a big blue tent in Jardín Morelos on Independencia, across from the chain supermarket, Soriana.  Rather than hurting business, the vendors report sales have increased at the temporary site and are hoping to bring the new customers along when they move into the newly renovated Mercado IV Centenario.

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