La Ciudad de Oaxaca has some of the most popular markets in Mexico. Nearby towns have their own markets and market days. An analogy: If markets are Mexico’s own tree of life, then Oaxaca is a major branch. Si los mercados son el árbol de la vida de México, entonces Oaxaca es una rama importante.
I had the pleasure of living in Oaxaca from 2001-2013 where I enjoyed the markets as a place to meet up with old friends and a place to make new acquaintances. My estancia was during the time the social web rose as a means of communication. Meanwhile communications improved in nearby villages which from having one or two community phones to having mobile phone coverage and cybercafes.
When you buy local, you are helping support responsible travel! Money spent in these markets circulate quickly and supports the local economy. It’s also a good pretext to eat some delicious food and meet some great people. Personally, I believe meeting people is the reason to travel – it’s not just the number of places you visit, but the depth of conversation and exploration with people you meet.
While I am not present in Oaxaca, I stay in contact with friends using the social web, starting with the people I met at the markets who started to learn Facebook at the same time as myself.
¿Qué mercados y puestos de Oaxaca tienen páginas en Facebook?
Which Oaxaca markets and stalls have pages on Facebook?
Guelaguetza por la Central: cocineros de Oaxaca se unen para apoyar
Este fue el infierno de la Central de Abasto en Oaxaca
Los mejores changarros de Oaxaca según Street Food Latinoamérica
Instalan arco sanitizador en el Mercado de Abasto de Oaxaca
Mercados de Oaxaca, con servicio a domicilio
Dan nueva cara al Mercado de las Artesanías en Oaxaca
Se desploman 80% ventas en mercados de Oaxaca
Aprueba ayuntamiento de Oaxaca nuevas medidas en mercados por Covid 19
Recommendations for a Market Tour
For visitors to Oaxaca markets we have recommendations to make the most of your visit.
Learn the lingo – Learn how to say ‘thank you’ in the local lingo. Oaxaca has 16 Indigenous groups and more than 100 languages. Here are a few greetings.
Leave a positive footprint – When you’re figuring which markets, restaurants and parks to visit, think about walking!
Buy something – See something you like? Make a purchase!
Bring small bills – Don’t expect to get change for a small purchase if you are paying with a 200 or 500 peso note.
Bring change – Exact change is always appreciated.
Bring your own bags – No need to ask for a new bag if you can reuse an old one!
Pay attention – Tourists in markets are easy targets for thieves. Lessen the chances of robbery by paying attention.
Don’t block the corridors – Remember that the market is a work environment. If you’re in a group or traveling by yourself, keep the corridors clear for other clients.
Ask before taking pictures – It’s common courtesy, particularly for close-up shots.
Ron’s Foodie Favorites
If you were to ask me for my Top Foodie favorites:
Tacos de barbacoa in the Abasto(s) Market.
Cafe de la Confianza in the Benito Juárez.
Carnes asadas in the 20 de Noviembre Market.
If you’d like to take our Market Challenge: Print a photo from the Flickr Collection and seek out the vendor or artisan. Give them the print-out.
Learn how to say ‘thank you’ in an Indigenous language.
Ask permission before taking photos.
Ask permission and take photo of signage, preferably eco signs! Add these photos with the name of the market to World Signs
More things you can do …
Ask what’s in season.
Look for a food you’ve never seen before.
Eat something made with corn, chocolate or … corn and chocolate.
Traditional markets include 20 de Noviembre y Benito Juárez, Artesanias, Abastos and Sanchez Pascuas.
Newer markets include Pochote, Pochote Xochimilco and La Cosecha. Stores created by vendors include Xiguela.
While buying and selling is an important aspect, the other prime motivator of the markets is that it provides an opportunity for people to socialize.
Markets are vital public gathering places that provide a meeting point in time and space for locals to gossip and for visitors to get a chance to take a peak at the ‘real’ Mexico. Experience the markets as living empathy museums. They are also a good way to meet the locals and for locals to meet visitors.
If you are seeking produce for today or tomorrow, be specific. vendors are pleased (and at times insistent) in choosing the right produce.
What to buy
In a traditional market, visitors can buy food and crafts. Meals are often available as are fresh juices.
Kitsch and loveable in the United States and Europe are the durable market bags, made of synthetics and often embossed with a design or the merchant’s name. What better thing to buy in a market than a market bag? It’s like buying postcards at the post office!
Other goodies – oilcloth (mantel del hule), leather sandals (sandalias de cuero), palm hats (sombreros de palma), chocolate and wrestling masks (mascaras de lucha libre).
Traditionally, market purchases were placed into a basket (canasta). Market baskets were made very broad so that purchases would not be packed on top of each other. Baskets have been replaced by deeper market bags, some of which are quite attractive.
Traditionally, purchases would be wrapped in natural materials such as corn husks (totomoxtle). For example, higuerilla leaves would be used to wrap grasshoppers.
During holidays, temporary markets spring up throughout Mexico. Visitors may think these markets are open all year long. It comes as a surprise to many that during low season the streets are empty of the temporary markets. Examples – the Easter Market.
Celebrating August 1
August 1 Día del Comerciante = Merchants’ Day
- How is ‘Día del Comerciante’ translated in other languages? Bonus points for Indigenous languages! #usatuvoz
- Where does the procession start and end?
- How did the celebration begin (some 50+ years ago)
- How have celebrations changed in the past 10 years?
Oaxaca Market Project
Oaxaca Market Project is an initiative of Planeta.com and friends in Oaxaca. We ask visitors to print photos (seen here archived on Flickr) and give them to the vendors. This puts a new spin on the traditional ‘take only photographs’ mantra by giving the photos back and raising awareness and increasing purchases of traditional crafts and local food. What might be a rushed visit becomes a search for familiar faces and seasonal products. This guide encourages you to learn about the markets before a visit. Enjoy!
Central de Abasto(s)
Central de Abasto(s), Lista de Compras, 04.2008
1st Aniversario – Tianguis Ecologico La Estacion
Como evitar el uso de bolsas de plastico (Estacion)
2008 Easter Market
Canastas del Oro (Pochote)
Flor de Maguey (Pochote)
Pink requeson (Pochote)
Sánchez Pascuas (June 2018)
Oaxaca State of the Stomach – Culinary Backstreets