When visiting a new country (or your homeland even), it’s always a good idea to hit up the nearby mercados to check out the local goods. You can learn a lot about an area by seeing the types of things offered at their local market. Take for example Mexico, a massive country that boasts numerous markets which offer plenty of insight into regional differences by simply seeing the variety of goods offered. Sample local produce and cheeses, check out work by local artisans, have a talk with some of the area’s vendors, and then pick up quality souvenirs to take back home. Most markets are generally free of charge, and while some vendors might strike you as slightly pushy, don’t take it personally (this is just how some do business). Peruse the booths before making a purchase, haggle if it’s welcomed, and if you’re still not sure what to pick up while there, consult our list before your next visit to el mercado.
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Many people have fallen in love with the world of alebrijes (especially after watching the beautiful film Coco). But did you know you can pick up one of these colorful fantasy creatures at a Mexican mercado? Born of the imagination of Oaxacan artist Pedro Linares, you can now find them in all shapes and sizes at mercadors around the nation — but especially in Oaxaca.
You might not think of handbags as something to pick up while on vacation, but if you ever go to a mercado like El Adoquin in Puerto Escondido, you’ll certainly see what I’m talking about. Discover cute, handcrafted bags made of leather or cloth, embroidered and embellished with intricate designs — all for way less than you’d pay at even a Ross or Target (and of much higher quality).
Local Foods and Sweets
When it comes to visiting any mercado, you know one of the main things you must do is pick up a few yummy things to eat. Indulge in regional tacos, mole, cheeses, fruits, and vegetables, or skip that and go straight for the locally-produced chocolate and coffee. It’s the perfect way to learn more about the area’s delicacies. And feel free to ask your vendor questions — they’re happy to chat and even serve samples, especially as long as you’re willing to purchase an item or two. Foodies might especially want to make a trip to Mexico City’s Mercado de la Merced, where hundreds of vendors will keep you well fed all day long.
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Never has my heart broken more than the day I accidentally lost one of my favorite pairs of earrings picked up at a mercado for only $4. Peruse the markets on your next trip to Mexico and you will undoubtedly find your own new favorite pair, made of textiles, shells, beads, and more. Just make sure to pick up two of the same item in the event yours gets lost like mine.
When it comes to brightly colored textiles, Mexico’s mercados have you covered. There are plenty to choose from, of course, but we recommend taking home at least one vibrant serape or rebozo, a shawl-like cloth often worn by women, which is also used by midwives on pregnant persons in labor. You can find hand-made textures like these in Mexican mercados at a fraction of the cost you’d get them here in the U.S.
Those who have a love of pottery and ceramics will no doubt be floored by the vast amount of talavera-style items to be found throughout the country’s mercados. From plates and vases to teapots and candleholders, you’ll find anything and everything you need to adorn your home with these beautiful pieces. You’ll find plenty of them at the Mercado El Parian in Puebla, among other places.
Lucha Libre is one of Mexico’s most popular sports — a form of pro-wrestling involving not only elaborate costumes but also exceptional masks. In fact, for luchadores, their mask is their most prized possession, and is what makes them into fighters. As such, there’s a huge market for lucha libre masks at numerous Mexican mercados. Find a replica mask of your favorite luchador, or simply go with the mask that speaks to you.