Besides the exciting festivals and ferias of Mexico, there are wonderful local markets to experience every week, so don’t miss out. Back in Mexico this winter I visited two that have become my favorites and I won’t miss an opportunity to go there.
Oaxaca: Tlacolula—Sunday Market (45mins from Oaxaca City)
Living very close to this market for six months a few years back, I went here every Sunday for my vegetables, fruits, and flowers and was usually on the look-out for a special blouse, embroidered apron, or something special to add to my collection. There are many vendors catering to those who love artisania whether it be red potter burnished by hand, caved gourds from the costa, hand sewn Zapotec dolls with authentic costumes, or beaded hearts along with charms for cures and protection. It’s a wonderland of charming cosas (things). It’s all part of a larger regional market where locals go for necessities like shovels, plastic containers, ropes, matates (corn grinding stones)—watch women trying them out—and many other surprising items. Searching out what is authentic to this location is the fun part of visiting Tlacolula.
Of course, part of the experience is the food. A specialty of Tlacolula is the grilling of tasajo, a thin sliced beef and green onions. You can smell it as soon as you enter the indoor market area. Also there are booths that sell very yellow chickens for stew as they are free range and a bit tough. Keep your eye out for the chocolate vendor who also sells chapulines (grasshoppers), a Oaxacan delicacy. You won’t easily forget Tlacolula market nor the wonderfully dressed local Zapotec ladies. Remember to visit the over-the-top baroque chapel next to the church.
Chiapas: Zinacantán—Sunday Market (35 mins from San Cristóbal de las Casas)
I didn’t discover this market until a couple of years ago, and I’ve decided I need to drop in every time I’m in San Cristóbal. Not a very huge market like Tlacolula that stretches many blocks in the center of town, Zinacantán is held on a large concrete slab lot next to the church. Open air with very few tarps for cover, goods are laid on the ground for all to peruse. Since Zincantán’s traje (traditional dress) changes colorways faster than any other Maya group, (at least yearly), it is a great place to see the latest in base cloth for their capelets, threads for their embroidery, and accessories ready to become fashion. Also for sale are rubber shoes, flip flops, and shiny hair clips that complete their fashion statement.
Of course there are some food vendors, and a few general vendors, but it’s mostly about what’s in fashion in Zinacantán. I spotted some intricate cross-stitch items that I learned were machine embroidered in Guatemala. I saw belts with this fabrication last year that now has made an impact on the capelets and who knows what will happen next year! WOW is all I can say!
This market is also a great place to view the ladies visiting on Sunday and mothers and kids all dressed in the traditional Zina outfits. The young men also cut fine figures striding along in their flowered tunics with long tassels swinging. WOW again! If you are following Zina fashion and its extravagant floral patterns on everything, you won’t want to miss “whatz new” at the Zinacantán market near San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.
To learn more about the Tlacoluca and Zinacantán markets plus a whole lot more, pick up a copy of Textile Fiestas of Mexico: A Traveler’s Guide to Celebrations, Markets, and Smart Shopping. Available at ClothRoads, Amazon, and at your favorite local bookshop. Available in Mexico at Abrazos.