Three Surprises at the Market in Oaxaca

On each and every new trip to a city, certain adventures always rise to the top of my to-do list. One is a walk and after I strolled the streets of Oaxaca on Sunday, I decided to make sure I performed another “must” the following morning. I headed straight to the main market, Mercado Benito Juarez, for a true “Market Monday.”

a simple entrance...

Many markets contain similar items, similar souvenirs, foods, flowers, fruits, and trinkets, but there is always something new, something different. It’s why I go. It’s the sense of exploration and discovery of  a culture.  The new smells, sights, sounds, strange textures to touch, and tantalizing tastes keeps one adventurous. It surprises. And I am happy to report, the main market in Oaxaca had its fair share of surprises.

Imported Fish at the Market

Arriving just after it opened I started to make my rounds through all the stalls and stands and the smells arrived well before I did. I always parade through the fish, poultry and meats sections. I think we can easily forget where our meals come from, but a stroll in any market, and you are quickly reminded.

the butcher busy at work behind the wall of meat

My surprise came when conversing with a gentleman selling fish. Imported? I talked briefly (it was in Spanish) at a fish stall and he told me the Tilapia was imported from China. Made (or raised) in China? Ah, that was  something I didn’t expect in the marketplace of Oaxaca. Supermarket, maybe, but the open market, nope. Apparently global trade reaches all corners of the world and that includes the local market in Oaxaca too.

Unexpected - The Fish in Plastic - Imported from China.

Chapulines – Mexican Crickets

I first tasted chapulines in the Riviera Maya at Hacienda Tres Rios and then again in Puerto Vallarta at El Arrayan, but now I was where the crickets are captured, Oaxaca. In the market there were thousands and thousands. One large heap of chapulines after another and all prime for tasting. (they are crunchy and a bit salty).

The ladies teased me as they thought I’d never seen the insects for sale before. I have, but the sheer volume did surprise me. Just mounds of dead, dried insects everywhere. Who was buying all these insects?

Tasty, Actually that was another surprise.

Mexican Piñatas

Probably the most pleasant surprise was the walk through the aisle colorful piñatas. All shapes and sizes hung from the market ceiling. I have not seen so many for sale since Mexico City years earlier. In the market a complete row was dedicated to childhood pleasure.

I walked the aisle slowly and as if it were a museum carefully enjoying each piece as art work.  I even started to wonder when I might receive my next invitation to a fiesta complete with a piñata.  Hopefully soon. Very soon.

the faces of the piñatas

stay adventurous, Craig

This post is part of the Mexico Today program. I am being compensated for my work in creating content as a Contributor and Ambassador for the México Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared in my blog are completely my own. Viva Mexico!

Additionally this post is part of the Market Monday series. 

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  • Jim O’Donnell

    Sadly, a number of reports have come out about how the Chinese send low-quality and often heavily contaiminated fish (think mercury) to places like Mexico because of the lack of regulations and enforcement. Another thing I’ve seen off the west coast of Mexico are foreign fishing fleets controlling the waters at the expense of the local communities. The inequities in the “free” trade system create some really weird situations – such as that you ran into in the market.

    • Craig Zabransky

      Jim, thanks for sharing, fishing – from overfishing, to farming – has a lot of issues, so your comments are probably and sadly true. And yes, the globalization of the world offers some pretty interesting situations – no doubt. thanks for commenting.

      stay adventurous, Craig

  • Chris (Amateur Traveler)

    Oaxaca has a number of markets. I missed which one you were at.

    • Craig Zabransky

      Yes, Oaxaca certainly does. And thanks for asking. (I added it to the story)

      Also, I considered this its main market because it was just off the Zocalo and called the Mercado Benito Juarez.

      stay adventurous, Craig

  • Charu

    Being a vegetarian, i will skip the first two but will take the third!

  • Lauren, Ephemerratic

    Thanks for taking me on a stroll through one of Oaxaca’s markets! Todd and I are heading there for Semana Santa and markets are high on our lists. While we now know to look out so we can avoid questionable imported goods, we also know to be on the lookout for Piñatas Alley.

    • craig zabransky

      Lauren, you will love Oaxaca, such a great place in Mexico…. and Semaña Santa, well that is a magical time… Enjoy. Stay adventurous, Craig

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