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What Not to Wear… to a Mexican market

This past weekend, we decided to check our Mercado Sonora and Mercado de la Merced here in Mexico City. Mercardo Sonora is known as the “Witches Market”, meaning that its vendors proffer a wide variety of goods that tend to fall under the “potions” category (perhaps optimistically). So lots of incense, herbal/folk remedies, images of saints to pray to, lucky charms, etc.  Mercardo de la Merced is one of the largest wholesale/retail markets in Mexico City, with aisle after aisle of fruit, veg, grain, party invitations, clothing, and really anything else your little heart desires.

Saturday was a gorgeous day (after a bit of unseasonally crap rainy/cold weather the previous weekend), so I felt like taking advantage of the warm temps by wearing a skirt & sandals. And one of my favorite Threadless t-shirts. (Those of you who know me, know that my inept wardrobe basically consists solely of t-shirts from http://www.threadless.com.) This was before we decided to go check out the weirdo witchcraft market, located in arguable not the ‘best’ neighborhood in D.F….  (Point of reference: in recounting my latest market trip to my boss on Monday, we discussed how perhaps I should begin sending him emails with our plans for Saturday so he would know where to start searching for me if I don’t show up to work on Monday.)

Anyway, John felt a photo was merited to document for all my readers “What Not to Wear to a Not-Super-Touristy Market in Mexico City If You Want to Remotely Blend In”.

Ways to identify yourself as a foreigner

Ways to identify yourself as a foreigner


  1. Wear a skirt  (women generally wear pants here to avoid harassment)
  2. Wear sandals  (even during the summer months, I rarely saw any Mexicans wearing sandals…probably because you don’t necessarily want what’s on the streets to subsequently be on your bare feet)
  3. Be 6′2, or within 6 inches of that  (everytime I ride the elevator at work, I awkwardly note that usually I am at least a head higher than my elevator-mates)
  4. Travel with someone else who’s 6′2  (I’m sure I would totally blend in if it were not for John)
  5. Have blonde hair  (not so common here)
  6. Wear t-shirt with images representative of the Communist Party on it  (I’m not a communist, people; the shirt just has communists AT at a party… see, it’s totally different)
  7. Stop and take photo on the pedestrian walkway over the busy street between the two markets 

All of that said, we were harassed no more than usual at the market and enjoyed wandering around the numerous “one vegetable only” stands at Mercado Merced (i.e., if they had a store name, it would be “All Avocados” or “Totally Tomatoes”).  Mercardo Sonora, however, was a different story– the distinctive feature of this market was the animal section.  Here, we found wire crate after wire crate filled with puppies, bunnies, birds, roosters, chicks, you name it.  The condition of the animals was certainly offputting enough, but selfishly, all I could think while walking through the overwhelming stench of animals-in-close-quarters was the completely irrational thought of ”If I was going to get the bird flu somewhere, this is it.” I think this first popped to mind when I saw a glimmer of sunlight peeking through the roof, which highlighted the disturbing amount of particulate in the air for our breathing enjoyment…

A view from the pedestrian walkway down along the side of the Mercado de la Merced

A view from the pedestrian walkway down along the side of the Mercado de la Merced

In summary, I would not necessarily rush to Merced or Sonora– Merced is interesting for its size, but not particularly differentiated in its offerings. With Sonora, there is certainly a treasure trove of odd folklore medicines, charms, and amulets, but it is difficult to discern much meaning from merely walking by. I think if you are fluent in Spanish & interested in chatting at length with the vendors, Sonora could be an interesting experience. Barring that, I would not put it on the top of the must-do list (but to be fair, I was skeeved-out by the animal section)…  If nothing else, both are easy to get to via the metro– the Merced stop on the pink line deposits you literally *inside* the market to make for easy exploring. And of course, we did continue our exploratory food trend with huaraches at one of the stalls in Merced!!

We had huaraches for lunch inside Merced... yet another food stall victory with no problems!!

We had huaraches for lunch inside Merced... yet another food stall victory with no problems!!

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17 Comments on “What Not to Wear… to a Mexican market”

  1. #1 Bruce Warner
    on Jan 28th, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Hey Julie,
    I like the Threadless shirts too, but do you check out Shirt Woot ! ?


    Some veryr funny stuff and usually $10.00…

  2. #2 Julie
    on Jan 28th, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Hey Bruce! Yes, I used to be a window-shopping Woot diehard, many moons ago back in the days pre-shirt.woot and pre-wine.woot. I think I forgot about it because since they can’t ship wine to Mexico, the constant draw of the bargains of wine.woot.com had vanished… :)

    Thanks for the reminder; I shall re-add it into my witty t-shirt monitoring activities!!

  3. #3 Mark Roth
    on Jan 29th, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Wow, I haven’t been to Mercado de la Merced since Fall 1981!

  4. #4 melissa
    on Feb 1st, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Definetely going to have to check out the Mercado when we visit Mexico City…. and remember not to wear a skirt. hehe… thanks for sharing!

  5. #5 American Mommy in Mexico
    on Feb 7th, 2009 at 1:56 am

    Huaraches – I had for first time a couple weeks ago. Very good.

  6. #6 Marcie
    on Feb 16th, 2009 at 12:06 am

    I just stopped back to re-read this post and noticed the sign in the middle picture. What are “diableros” and why aren’t they allowed to cross bridges?

  7. #7 Julie
    on Feb 16th, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Marcie– I had to ask my coworker re. the diableros… Apparently they are the guys that work at the mercados who are running around pushing handcarts stacked with boxes. They aren’t allowed to cross the bridge because it’s not very wide & so they would end up hitting lots of pedestrians with their carts (like they usually do in the market aisles anyway). Learn something new every day!

  8. #8 Dona Junta
    on Mar 6th, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    ha ha funny total tourist look, was this in the town of Tepito? I heard there they are big on the whole Santa Muerte and witch craft type stuff.

  9. #9 Daniela
    on Mar 6th, 2009 at 8:05 pm

    You are killing me with your blog! I am also a native midwesterner in Mexico City, recently transplanted to Maryland, working in the archives here for a few months. I’m off to La Merced tomorrow, sans skirt as suggested, but I can’t do much about the height issue being 5-11ish. Keep bloggin’!

  10. #10 Yessica
    on Mar 7th, 2009 at 11:05 pm


    Your review of the market made me laugh, because I plan to go there at the end of March, and all my friends say wear old jeans, crappy T shirt and trainers. LOL

    Thanks for the insight

  11. #11 n
    on Apr 14th, 2009 at 11:50 am

    I have the same T-shirt! Will be sure not to wear it on my next Mexican mercado excursion.

  12. #12 kristiea68
    on May 25th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I like your blog, I was in DF over christmas 2011, also. (I’m also blonde/blue eyed/US citizen) I was just there again last week.

    I totally agree with you about the animal section of the Sonora market, bird flu/other weird diseases are *exactly* what I was thinking when I was in there, too. That place is pretty horrifying.I got out pretty quickly.

  13. #13 Roberto
    on Jun 19th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    I Love This City, Even If I’ve Never Been There But Due To My Accent Everybody Here In California Calls Me “Chilango” (Chilango Are The People Who Live In Mexico City”Lower Class” And Their Accent Is Unique)… I Wish I Can Go To Live There In The Future…!!!

  14. #14 Libertad
    on Mar 22nd, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Nice threadless t-shirt :D
    I think you were dressed pretty normal for Mexico, I mean, in summer I only wear sandals… and dresses and also skirts. But well, never been in Sonora.
    I liked to see some pictures of the markets, and the food, it makes me wanna go there :D .
    And well, though I’ve had visa for going to the USA all my life, I’ve never gone farther than the border, so don’t know much of what they wear, much more that what I see on tv series, but if they are like Mexico ones, then I should not trust them, haha. But I’ve been in central and south America, and I think what really makes you look like a tourist is wearing shorts and tennis shoes, and looking like you’re going on a safari ^^.
    Well, I just wanted to say: nice pictures! Nice blog! And keep visiting places and eating delicious food :D

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    on Dec 28th, 2013 at 11:39 am


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