"Pásele marchante, pásele" This is what vendors call out to their customers in Mexican markets as they stroll through narrow aisles crowded with all types of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, handcrafts, candies, flowers and much more. The Aztecs called them tianguis, a word in náhuatl that means mercado or market, referring to an open public market in which traders from different parts of the country met to exchange products such as jade, cotton, cocoa, cereals and precious metals.
During their rule in central Mexico, the Aztecs built the Tlatelolco market and due to its important location, it became the main mercado in mid-fifteenth century AD. Other specialized markets were created as well and could be found in different cities that are now neighborhoods, for example the salt market located in Atenantitlán or the slaves market located in Azcapotzalco and Izocan.
Nowadays, the mercados represent an important attraction for national and international visitors since all the folk culture of the city or town can be easily found there. The mercados are everywhere and each one has its own specialty and personality that comes from the raw ingredients to the prepared foods, the colors and unique aromas.
In Oaxaca, tourists can visit Mercado de Juárez, famous for its handcrafts, natural home-made refreshments (known in Mexico as aguas frescas), people selling a wide array of cheese and the best Tlayudas - hand-made corn tortilla with tasajo style beef, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and red or green sauce. Other popular markets can be found in Puebla, where you will find the San Martin Texmeluca market, one of the largest in Latin America, while Morelia offers a candy market with a incredible collection of traditional sweets such as the ate -thick fruit paste.
In México City there are many specialized markets like the flower market in Xochimilco which is 30 acres long, the Sonora market, known as the best place to find medicinal herbs, home remedies not only to cure normal illnesses but to keep bad energy away, and some others like Mercado de La Merced, Mercado de Jamaica, etc.
All of these are settled in a specific area within the city but every week there are smaller and traveling markets, those of which are visited more often by people living in the surrounding towns. For example, the handcraft market of San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas or the Saturday silver market offering great bargains in Taxco, Guerrero.
Now you know that visiting a mercado is a must on your next trip to Mexico! It is the best way to experience a day in the life of the Mexican people and learn about local food, traditions, and flavors.