Markets are very much a part of everyday life in San Miguel de Allende, not merely a novelty to be enjoyed every once in a while. San Miguel’s markets reflect the rich art, culture and gastronomy of the city. There is a strong emphasis on artisan craft and buying local ingredients is standard practice. Its relatively large expat population and status as a popular tourist destination has widened the scope of the traditional market. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t experience an authentic Mexican market in this town. Here we take a look at two daily markets and two weekly markets in San Miguel de Allende.
Mercado San Juan de Dios
Handmade artesanías at the Mercado de Artesanías / ©Maya Sankey-Black
San Juan de Dios is one of San Miguel de Allende’s principal traditional markets, just a five minute walk from the main square. There are two sections to this market; indoors and outdoors. The indoor section is predominantly food-oriented, featuring a wealth of stalls with magnificent displays, with fruit and vegetables piled up in high in a beautiful orderly fashion. Large baskets and balloons decorate the stalls with each of the stallholders vying for customers. Cactus leaves and tunas (small red fruit from one type of cactus) are trimmed and prepared to eat. The market is dotted with food joints serving hearty meals such as pozole, a spicy broth with pork and corn. A selection of fruits and vegetables is available to snack on the go such as jicama (Mexican yam or turnip), covered in chili, salt and lemon to taste. Outdoors the stalls sprawl along the main road and retreat back from the road for a few blocks. They range from raw meats to extravagant flower arrangements and clothes. This market promises a reliable source of good, cheap produce and is also where many locals meet up to socialize. Open every day from 9 am to 6 pm, you can throw yourself into the life of San Miguel de Allende by interacting with local traders and produce.
Mercado de Artesanias
Pile of chicharrones at El Tianguis de los Martes / ©Maya Sankey-Black
Mercado de Artesanias (The Artisan Market) is open daily from 9 am until 7 pm. Each stall is overloaded with hand-crafted items. Jewelry stalls sell pendants and rings, some of which are made from local stones such as Mexican jade or shaped like skulls. Hand-painted, traditional Mexican ceramics are piled high alongside hanging lamps and Oaxacan rugs and clothing. Even the souvenirs at touristy stalls are hand-painted. A cascade of hats falls from one man’s stall and live birds in cages are the feature of another. Mercado de Artesanias stretches from a large undercover area, in which there is a mix of craft stalls and food stalls selling local honey, handmade sweets and medicinal herbs. Sellers hand out small pieces of grilled sweetcorn to passers-by to taste. These can be bought covered in lemon, salt and chili to taste. The market continues down some steps through a passageway with stalls on either side and out into the open, winding through the narrow streets until you come out at the main road on the other side. San Miguel is a city full of artists, painters and craftsmen, and this is reflected in this beautiful market.
Tianguis de los Martes
Tamales at the Mercado Orgánico / ©Maya Sankey-Black
Tianguis de los Martes takes place every Tuesday just out of the center of San Miguel de Allende – a short bus or taxi ride away. ‘Tianguis’ means an open air market. Approaching the market, a sea of brightly colored awnings spreads out before you, shading the stalls from the hot sun. Tianguis de los Martes is less souvenirs and gifts, and more everyday essentials; from piles of clothes for ten pesos a piece, to cleaning products and household items, electrical goods, mountains of fruit and vegetables from the familiar potato to exotic cactus leaves, and even live cattle. The many hot food stalls serve up a variety of Mexican dishes with a mouthwatering array of fillings, salsas and toppings. If desired, your taco can even be filled with pork jowl, brain or eyeball. For the less adventurous, why not try the torta de carnitas, pork simmered in oil until soft and delicious, stuffed into a bread roll and covered in salsa? Or buy a slab of chicharrones, deep-fried pork rind. If you’re after a real Mexican market experience, spend a day wandering through the tianguis, exploring the various stalls, discovering something you’ve never heard of and working up an appetite for the delicious foods on offer.
Every Saturday, organic traders congregate under the shady trees of the gardens next to the Instituto Allende art school. About 40-50 traders come with a large range of beautiful organic produce including breads and cakes, fruit and vegetables, hand-embroidered pillowcases and table cloths, condiments, chocolates, cacti and more. One stall features artisan cheese from the Ovejero dairy, selling one cheese that has been soaked in wine and another from a town called Cotija where the first cheese in North America was apparently produced. Alongside the sellers are many stalls selling fresh tacos, quesadillas, tamales and hot and cold drinks. The tamales here are particularly delicious, made of masa (dough made from corn), stuffed with a selection of meats or veggies and steamed in banana leaves, and come slathered in sour-cream, guacamole and sprinkled with pomegranate, chia and flax seeds. There is a calm atmosphere in the Tianguis Organico, as people meander around chatting with sellers and relaxing in the shady seating area. Whether you’re getting your weekly fill of organic fruits and vegetables, perusing the stalls for something that you haven’t tried before, indulging in delicious food or just enjoying the ambiance, it’s the perfect place to spend your Saturday afternoon.
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