Monday, May 22, 2006

Mercado de Abastos

On Saturdays, Oaxaqueños gather at the Mercado de Abastos to buy and sell everything life demands in Oaxaca. Julie and I arrived via taxi because we were not sure how far of a walk it would be from our posada. The mercado is on the other side of a big street and we thought we´d let the driver take care of the logistics. Besides we had been walking all over the city for the previous two days. When we arrived, we realized that the big road was the Pan-American highway, or the Gringo Project as some referred to it. It was unclear which parts were boulevards, highways, railroads, or sidewalks, but everyone was using them at the same time for thier own ends. Once we crossed the street into Abastos we found a giant building, not in height but in breadth. The biulding was likely three or four blocks long and one block deep we decided to walk through it just to see what we could find. I don´t even know where to start. There were definitely sections that were categorized, like boots and shoes, tools, breads, fruits, vegetables, artisanal goods, plastic toys, socks, chicken feeds, paper and writing utencils and restuarants. The Mercado de Abastos is much bigger than the building we were confronted with at the Pan-American highway. We decided just to walk through it to see what its dimensions were. We got lost several times but eventually found its limits and estimated that the market was about five square city blocks. Every other street is a covered building with shops and vendors inside. The ones outside consisted of tent cities with beautiful vegetables, sharpened argicultural implements, and shoe shiners.
Originally, Julie and I were on a mission to find Zapotec clothing and a folding serated knife to cut tomatoes with. Our posada only had table knives. Once we got there, our mission changed constantly though. As soon as we would find our selves in a new section we decided to explore that only to get lost and wander around to find the section that we intended to go to. This entire space of the Abastos was thriving with people and rarely was there a section that was not busy with exchange. On of the funniest and interesting parts of the Abastos is how idle vendors spent thier time. Some where completely out sleeping on top of thier registers or scales, others brought full-on video game systems. Julie and I witnessed some young boys leaving a clothing tienda with a plastic carton tied to thier waists dragging behind them. Scraping and jostling along, what appeared to be just clothing in the carton turned out to be a baby napping in the carton as the boys walked briskly and talking intently amongst themselves. Meanwhile, the baby fast asleep. The boys were likely on orders by thier mother to occupy the baby while business was heavy. When other vendors say what we were gigling about they too noticed the boys and joined us in our giggles. It was really a fun experience. The Zapotec churro vendors were making fun of me for how deeply enraptured I was to find churros at such a cheap price. Other vendors were entranced by the comedy of Julie attempting to purchasing tomatoes, avoacados and onions with broken Spanish and her involuntary giggles.
We found the knife, decided against buying Zapotec goods, and I became desirous of leather cowboy boots. We´ll try to go back next weekend.