You might think this is a dance, but it’s really how to push your way through the huge Abastos Market crowds that come the morning of October 31 to buy all the things needed to decorate family graves and home altars. This is not a market for the faint of heart. It is serious stuff. Huge. It’s a market you can get lost in. And, if you aren’t careful you could lose more than you came in with. People press up against you to get by. Children are underfoot. There are some moments when you have to step out of the aisle to catch your breath. To get there is no small feat either. The traffic outside the market is bumper to bumper and there are no lanes. Drivers push through the street to get their nose out in front of another vehicle just like the people who push through the crowds inside.
You need a person with you who knows this market well to get you back to where you started. You need a money pouch that is tucked tight close to your body. If you are carrying a passport, keep it inside your shirt. Don’t bring a lot of cash. Keep your camera strap hung around your neck and your hand on your camera. Leave all unnecessary equipment back at your hotel! If this is all too daunting, then you might try going to the tamer Benito Juarez Market in Oaxaca instead. It is within walking distance of the Zocalo!
The market is filled with edible treasures: sugar skulls; bread baked with painted images of Jesus, Mary, the Virgin of Guadalupe; chocolate skeletons; and every household staple that one can imagine plus some.
Fruit is used to decorate graves and altars. In addition to oranges, limes, bananas, grapefruit and apples, there are papayas, mangoes, and many more exotic varieties than I am familiar with. Children learn to sell by their mother’s side at a young age, packaging the purchases of shoppers and making change.
If you enter the market near the bus parking lot, you might find this woman from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec who prepares and sells the most delicious battered and deep fried fish.