My love for markets is well known. It had been a while since I last visited a market in Mexico and I was looking forward to relive the experience. It was thursday morning, the day the Zaachila market comes to life and I was curious to know how it would compare with other markets I have visited during my five years in Mexico.
Right in the beginning there was a lot of noise and excitement in the air. And then I understood why. I don’t think I had ever seen so many live birds in one place. There were “guajolotes” or turkeys of all sizes and colors noisily protesting as if guessing their fate as somebody’s meal. Some were already being carried away, watching the world upside down.
And then the hens, ducks and roosters seemed to have their own choir along with their owners attempt to praise their graces.
“Look here”, they would shout. Mine are the most beautiful, the strongest, the juiciest! I’ll give you a good price! Looking for a big guajolote or hen? Look no further! Look how fat they are!” I felt sorry for the poor creatures, looking disoriented in the heat. Part of me wanted to save them but I know that these birds can feed a whole family.
The further we ventured, the more there was to see, smell and taste. Colorful, wonderful seasonal fruit with real flavor was all around us.
How I missed the juiciness and the sweet taste of the mangoes, the papayas and the mamey, a fruit I can only find in Mexico.
And what about all those varieties of chiles? I certainly missed that. “Ya te enchilaste?” Carmen asked me. I smiled. I had forgotten that you should always approach with care a chile stand. The degree of spiciness varies and chances are you will feel your eyes and even your throat burning a bit just by proximity.
And then you turn another corner and the most wonderful smell of freshly made “tlayudas” reaches you. The bean paste bed topped by the chorizo and Oaxaca famous melted cheese brought back so many memories! But I resisted and moved on.
My husband predictably followed the scent of honey. We asked for a taste and generously got almost a handful. We tasted several and appreciated the purity. My daughter loved the natural sweetness. Understandably she declared this to be her favorite stand.
As the energizing activity of the market increased and I heard the call of the vendors advertising their special offers, for a moment I convinced myself I was back in Mexico to stay. I wanted to buy, taste, imagine how pretty the pottery would look in my big Mexican kitchen. For a split moment. If only time could be stopped on demand.
Instead we had to think what we could buy and take with us. For our immediate road trip we bought some mangoes and a pot of honey to make our trip even sweeter. We also purchased a glass of delicious “mole negro” and cocoa beans to take with us back to Austria. Two things that always remind us of our wonderful trip to Zaachila Market.
Before I bade my farewell, I took a few more moments to look at the wonderful faces around me and hear the conversations. I was again reminded how much I loved the atmosphere in these kind of markets.
The typical expressions, the welcoming, the kindness, the sense of humor, the gossip, even the music, there is nothing like it.
There is really nothing like it. Visiting a traditional market will always be one of the most unforgettable experiences of traveling in Mexico. Now that I’m back in Europe, I feel a bit nostalgic. When will I be able to return I wonder. Soon I hope …