I can’t think of any U.S. market like the ones in Mexico except Pike Place with its stands selling trinkets and fish mongers putting on a show for the tourists. I always say that the U.S. is so obsessed with permits and hygiene regulations that Mexican-style markets would never last there. But the truth is, that statement denigrates the reality that most markets in Mexico are clean, fresh oases in the middle of hot, dirty cities and dusty, rural towns.
The Medellín market, about four blocks from my house, is a world apart from the chaotic traffic of Monterrey Street and crowded bustle of Campeche. It’s always clean and cool and everyone seems busy doing one thing or another and not that interested in you as a shopper.
In the Medellín, especially in the mornings, you are free to wander unhindered by the insistence of vendors that you buy their wares. The only other shoppers are Señoras checking the freshness of Poblano peppers and squeezing the tomatoes. I could start every morning there. Here’s why:
Today I had cucumber, strawberry and mango. Lunch counter-style Las Delicias juice bar is right in the middle of the market and has a million options. Surrounding the counter is a fog of juice particles.
The smell of roses
For a tiny market Medellin’s cut flower section is not wimpy and there are several other stands that sell orchids, compost and ornamental plants. Within the four “block” flower section your nostrils are flooded with the smell of pollen, petals and potting soil.
We just recently discovered a stand in the center of market that sells Cuban food. We meet more neighborhood Cubans and Colombians every time we go. This place helps to feed my tostones addiction and has heart-stoppingly good Cuban rice and beans.
Just a little bit of everything
So there’s only three fish stands and there’s one mariscos place and one place to buy lamb, but that’s good enough. Sometimes sixteen stands selling the same red snapper can be overwhelming. It’s nice to have one good option and not have to think too much.
You think It’s nothing special
… until you come upon that something a little bit more exotic. Like Argentine beer or Yucateco candies or African violets.
Of all of the other markets I have written about, this one is starting to carve out a special place in my heart. After a year and a half I’m starting to know the vendors and they’re starting to know me. The Cuban gave me some tips this morning on my rice and beans and the butcher I like knows that I am going to be there late and happily obliges my American habit of buying meat right before dinner. To them maybe I’m just another gringa in market, but for me, it’s starting to feel like home. I don’t even mind that much when they call me güera.