Category Archives: Markets/Mercados

Estampas de Mi Ciudad – Saints and Superheroes at Mercado de San Juan

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“El Santo” (The Saint)
Mercado de San Juan, Mexico City, Mexico
Photo credit: Brenda Storch

The supernatural and the secular, the old and the new, the exotic and the mundane converge at Mercado de San Juan- a collection of food so eclectic and extraordinary as the imagery that frames it. Mercado de San Juan offers a gateway into what would be the equivalent of anthropological “Cliffs Notes” on Mexico. In less than four aisles, visitors can walk 500 years back in history and choose from  a wide array of pre-Hispanic sources of protein including  chicatana ants, grasshoppers and other insects.

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Grasshoppers on display at Mercado de San Juan
Mercado de San Juan, Mexico City, Mexico
Photo credit: Brenda Storch

Walk a few aisles and a couple of  centuries forward, and discover hundreds of varieties of cheeses at “La Catalana”. Walk a few steps more and find anything from duck to wild boar, ostrich and crocodile in the meat section. Plus, the market has its own fonda, a little food bar with fresh, rustic-yet-extraordinary flavors, in case you want to stay and eat like a local.

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Fonda Dish at Mercado de San Juan
Mercado de San Juan, Mexico City, Mexico
Photo credit: Brenda Storch

I have spent most of my life in Mexico City, and it was not until a recent trip home that I decided to visit Mercado de San Juan. This market has attracted shoppers for hundreds of years, and more contemporarily, celebrities, up-and-coming chefs and food enthusiasts. If you are in D.F. and close to the Centro Histórico, have a taste of Mexico in one of the aisles of Mercado de San Juan. Here, food is sustenance, food is love, food is sacred. Missing it, a sin.

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“San Juan”(St. John)
Mercado de San Juan, Mexico City, Mexico
Photo credit: Brenda Storch

Address: Antiguo Mercado de San Juan Ernesto Pugibet, No.21 loc.162 Centro Historico, Mexico D.F.

Phone:+52 1 55 3101 7290
Hours: Mon- Sun 9:00 am–5:00 pm

Estampas de Mi Ciudad – Comunión y Comida (In Food, Communion)

Photo credit: Magali Gómez – Ciudad de México, México                       Published with the author’s approval

The legendary Mercado de La Merced (La Merced Market) in Mexico City, was named after a Monastery of the order dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy, which was established in the homonymous Barrio de La Merced in 1594.  Among locals, the name  La Merced  will today evoke images of a monumental market, the second largest in town, and perhaps the most iconic. In the halls of this shopping colossus, the bizarre and the ordinary collide into the most fascinating explosion of colors, sounds, aromas and flavors.

I find it so fitting that, as in the case of La Merced, many large mercados in Mexico are named after saints or other religious figures. While I understand these names were assigned for practical purposes in colonial Mexico, I find there is something powerful about food, something almost spiritual. Like its people, Mexican food is mestizo- an amalgam of ingredients transformed by fire and knife into a colorful, flavorful, complex creation. As an art form or a cultural artifact, food provides the ultimate level of interactivity – communion.

Mercados are living museums, and a fun and delicious way to sample everyday life including the local fare. Wherever I go, I always make a point to add them to my list of must-see places.

Sadly, La Merced has declined a bit in recent years, and if you are not in the mood for an adrenaline-fueled adventure, a wonderful alternative to get a taste of Mexico is El Mercado de San Juan.