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El Tianguis- the traveling market

Tianguis : TYAHN-gees

While most larger Mexican towns will have at least one centralized market (mercado) where locals shop for their fresh foods, many towns also host a weekly traveling market, held usually near the edge of town where there’s plenty of space. 

Once, sometimes twice, a  week, vendors  from near and far arrive with their goods  and set up a rambling network of stalls festooned with colorful tarps for shade from the elements.  Here in San Miguel de Allende, the tianguis takes place every Tuesday on the edge of town. Gringos refer to it as “The Tuesday Market”.

This is the place to go to experience free enterprise in action. Poultry, alive, or freshly plucked… next to this, a rainbow array of bras…next to those, mountains of  slightly dated designer clothing…then there are blender jars, tools of all descriptions and bootleg videos..  the list is endless, the scene a controlled chaos. For the foreign visitor, it can be dizzying.

Outside Oaxaca City you'll find el Tianguis in Tlacolula–  one of the country's most vibrant traveling markets.
Outside Oaxaca City you’ll find el Tianguis in Tlacolula– one of the country’s most vibrant traveling markets.

Indigenous and Local Produce.

If you are interested in seeking out the indigenous and non-commercial fruits and vegetables, here you’ll find vendors who bring you the best of the region, and those nearby. One vendor may have a complete array from white onions to eggplants (which are farmed here for export and not part of the local diet), but right next to that stall, you may find a wizened old woman from the campo (countryside) offering only  her recent harvest of cleaned nopal paddles or bundles of té de limón (lemongrass, used in Mexico to make tea, but you can use in Asian cooking!) and a few other herbs.

The Wisdom of the Viejitos

Viejito(a)/Viejo(a)– VYAY-ho: Old person

It’s these hardworking folks you want to look for– they offer the wisdom of generations past and are well aware of the health benefits of the foods they are selling. Although wizened and bent, their health issues are less likely the result of poor nutrition, than due to a lifetime of hard work and simply, old age. They’re indeed the backbone of this country. If you show  interest, and attempt to phrase any questions you have in even clumsy Spanish, you will  find them pleased to share their knowledge with you.

When you arrive in a new town, ask about the weekly Tianguis– and immerse yourself in the authenticity of this cultural experience.

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