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”.
- Wear a skirt (women generally wear pants here to avoid harassment)
- 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)
- 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)
- Travel with someone else who’s 6’2 (I’m sure I would totally blend in if it were not for John)
- Have blonde hair (not so common here)
- 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)
- 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…
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!!