Tag Archives: markets

Mexico Markets Photo Essay from Mexico Travel Photography Facebook Group

We recently completed a five-day challenge to post photos of Mexico Markets on the Facebook group page for Mexico Travel Photography. Members posted 158 photos. We have over 250 members and there’s room for many more!

Next up is a challenge for September 15 and 16: Post ONE photo to honor Mexico Independence Day. Bring out the red, white and green! Do you have something to contribute?

Here is a selection of photos from last week’s Mexico Markets challenge to tempt you to see the full display at the Facebook page site.

Ann Conway, San Cristobal de las Casas market

Ann Conway, San Cristobal de las Casas market

The Mexico Travel Photography group is a bunch of photographers from around the world who love Mexico. We range from beginners to professionals. All levels are welcome and our goal is to share, appreciate and learn from each other!

Gail Schacter, The Burden of Onions

Gail Schacter, The Burden of Onions

We all see things from a different point of view.

Melanie Schulze, Mamey fruit

Melanie Schulze, Mamey fruit

From the close-up texture of this mamey fruit with the taste of creamy yam, to the night shot below during Day of the Dead.

Deby Thompson, Night Market, Xoxocotlan, Oaxaca

Deby Thompson, Night Market, Xoxocotlan, Oaxaca


Martha Canseco Bennetts, Peppers

Janet Paluch, By the Dozen

Janet Paluch, By the Dozen

Nick Hamblen, Roadside Market

Nick Hamblen, Roadside Market

Markets in Mexico are anywhere and everywhere, even alone by the roadside.

Hollie Taylor, Packing It Up, Puebla

Hollie Taylor, Packing It Up, Puebla

Al Stevens, San Pablo Etla Market

Al Stevens, San Pablo Etla Market

Marnie Fleming, Ropes

Marnie Fleming, Ropes

Who would have thought a tangle of ropes would make a terrific photo? Marnie!

Liz Thomas, Night Market, Xoxocotlan, Oaxaca

Liz Thomas, Night Market, Xoxocotlan, Oaxaca

This photo, above, is of the same Xoxocotlan market stall shot by Deby Thompson above. Look what Liz focused in on.

Norma Schafer, basket weaver Margarita, Benito Juarez Market, Oaxaca

Norma Schafer, basket weaver Margarita, Benito Juarez Market, Oaxaca

Margarita’s face is a constant marvel to me. I’ve been buying woven palm baskets from her for years.

Ana Paula Fuentes, Fruit and Tablecloth

Ana Paula Fuentes, Fruit and Tablecloth

The composition of this photo with the fruit tablecloth backdrop says it all.

There are many outstanding photos on the Facebook Group page I didn’t post here. This is just to tantalize you to go take a look!

San Juan Chamula, Chiapas: No Photographs, Please

It’s impossible to take a photograph inside the once-Catholic church of San Juan Chamula.  It is a Sunday haven of pre-Hispanic mysticism, with folk practices that go way back in indigenous history.  Tourists are warned to tread lightly.


My body aches to take a photograph of the family crouched on pine needles in front of a sainted altar surrounded by a pile of eggs, a live chicken, and dozens of burning candles affixed to the tiled floor where the pine needles have been swept aside.

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Taking photos in the church is verboten.  Forbidden.  In years past I have seen village officials who mind the church protocol confiscate the cameras and memory cards of those who sneak a pic.  Impossible to be sneaky here. Sometimes, if a tourist resists, s/he is put in the local jail.

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Our group from Penland School of Crafts is compliant.  We tuck camera’s away into shoulder bags and backpacks. We are not going to tempt the fates or the village fathers.


A woman kneels in prayer singing in an ancient tongue, a melody pitched so that the gods will hear her.  Another keens.  Another weeps.  A shaman makes a blessing with an offering of coca-cola and mezcal.  Burping the fizzy drink is believed to cleanse the soul. Sunlight streams through the high side window and beneath the glow the people are bathed in shadow and light.  The space is illuminated.  Smells like piney forest, smokey candles, the burst of lilies and roses.

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Feet are bare and worn.  Feet are brown and calloused. Women’s furry black sheep wool skirts are tied at the waist with glittery cummerbunds.  Their blouses, silky polyester, are embroidered with intricate diamonds, birds, flowers, zig-zags and snap at the throat. It’s cold at 7,000 feet elevation.


This is sacred space, like being in a cave.  Here the human and divine spirit are one and belief is powerful. I guess no photographs are necessary to remember.


Beyond the church courtyard is a lively market place to buy hand spun and embroidered wool from the town, strange fruit, clothing from surrounding villages, meat, poultry, vegetables tortillas and bread. Amber and jade vendors hawk their wares. Little old ladies whose garments are beyond wearing, peddle purses, bracelets and keychains.

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Today, the plaza is lined with indigenous women and children from outlying hamlets, hundreds of them.  They sit on the edge waiting.  What are you waiting for? I ask one of them. She replies, we wait to receive an every-two-month stipend of 850 pesos. Soon, they form a line and hurry to the back of the government building. Their support is equivalent to $45USD per month.  Of course, she doesn’t want her picture taken.

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We organize arts workshop study tours with an educational focus. Contact us to bring a group!

Penland School Cooks in Oaxaca

We will be going back in time this week. A few days ago our participants from Penland School of Crafts gathered at Casa de los Sabores, the cooking school operated by chef Pilar Cabrera Arroyo.

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Our menu focused on mezcal including a flaming skewered pineapple and shrimp dish that went up in flames before we ate it. The pineapple chunks were soaked in mezcal so the natural sugars ignited instantly. They were accompanied by a salad featuring tiny tomatillos that we ate raw.


Pilar has been preparing great food for a long time.  Her La Olla Restaurant is well known in the city for using organic ingredients that are artfully prepared. Because our study tour focuses on Oaxaca arts and artisanry, food is an important ingredient in the Oaxaca mix.

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Pilar is also very knowledgeable about the artesenal process of cultivating and distilling mezcal, too.  Before we sat down to the meal we participated in preparing, we enjoyed a four-flight mezcal tasting that began with young espadin.  She explained the different varietals, aging process and the rising cost of the smokey beverage based on escalating international interest.

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First, it’s important to smell.  Then, take a first sip and let it go down your throat slowly.  At the end of your drink, suck on an orange slice dipped in worm salt (sal de gusano) for a perfect finish.

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After the memelitas with squash blossoms and queso fresco, and after the chicken with mole amarillo, we ended with an incredible flan.


With a beautiful table and an array of complex tastes, we were more than satisfied.  Oh, and I forgot to mention a shopping trip to the Mercado de la Merced before the class started to pick up essential ingredients.

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I work with local experts and guides to put together an unusual and intimate view of Oaxaca, her art, food and culture. I am not a tour guide but an expert at award-winning university program development. If you organization has interest in a program such as this one, please contact me.

Wandering Oaxaca and Teotitlan del Valle

Casita Roof Sunset-3 Casita Roof Sunset-2 After our Art Huipil Workshop ended, I retreated to the rooftop terrace where I live in Teotitlan del Valle to finish The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The views of the surrounding Tlacolula valley are glorious from there, especially at sunset. Casita Roof Sunset-4It’s winter, the dry season. The night air is clear and cold. The star field is glorious. During the day, sun provides enough heat that we have to hide from it by walking on the shady side of the street. So many northerners are here to seek shelter from the winter cold in the warmth of Oaxaca’s sun.Art Huipil Workshop-9Around and about Teotitlan del Valle, the daily village market, from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., gives us bread, fresh vegetables, meats and poultry, handcrafts and the essentials of daily life, like soap and bathroom tissue! The space is a source of constant fascination and appreciation for me. It’s where my food comes from! Art Huipil Workshop-99 For those without vehicles and sturdy legs, the tuk-tuks (or moto-taxis, as some call them) are an essential for getting home from the market with the daily bundle that always includes fresh flowers for the altar.Art Huipil Workshop-111 When the market closes at 10:30 a.m. not much happens there until mid-afternoon when the nieves (ice cream) vendors come to open their stalls. Ices made from tropical fruits like mango, papaya, strawberry and pineapple are muy rico. And, yes, they are made with purified water.Art Huipil Workshop-22After resting for a few days, I went to Oaxaca city to meet up with friends for a series of lunches and dinners. Social life here during the season can be intense. But not as intense as the color of this yellow flowering tree that punctuates the skyline throughout the city.


Everyone along the cobblestone sidewalks have their heads lifted skyward to take in the brilliant yellow blossoms of the Primavera tree of the genus Tabebuia, also called Ipe or Trumpet tree.  Not me, though. With my new knee replacement only two months behind me, I’m very careful to step lightly. If I want to take something in, I stop and plant myself on terra firma.

ArtHuipilMezcalChoc-2 Late afternoon brings us to Santo Domingo Church where vendors gather and weddings and quinceañieras are scheduled throughout the day. Bring it on!

Pink Hummer-3 Later that same night, with Pink Hummer stretch limo in waiting, a fifteen year old princess emerges from Santo Domingo complete with her men in waiting to escort her into the cavernous vehicle. There’s lots of poverty in Oaxaca and visible wealth, too. I see many more Audi’s, Mercedes and BMW’s on the streets now than ever before.

ArtHuipilMezcalChoc-4As we emerge from a delicious dinner at La Zandunga on Garcia Virgil, we stop in to Casa Crespo for a Oaxaca chocolate tasting. I think my favorite is the one flavored with chipotle chili. Trees on the avenue are illuminated in changing colors of red, green, yellow and purple. It’s a warm and festive evening for strolling.


So we stroll on over to Mezcaleria El Cortijo for a nightcap of my favorite reposado, an aged mezcal that goes down smooth and easy.  Ellen sniffs the bottle while our host Raul Mendez talks about mezcal culture.

Anri Okada Artist-4 Anri Okada Artist-2Oaxaca is pretty quiet most Sundays, and in my meanderings I notice an artist through an open doorway painting what appears to be a sign.  Meet Anri Okada. She has been in Oaxaca for six months, is an artist from Japan who studied painting. She speaks Spanish and English and is delightful.  Curiosity is what keeps the world exciting and imaginative.  You never know who you will meet next!Art Huipil Workshop-89Back in Teotitlan del Valle, weaving continues, surrounded by the paraphernalia of the craft — bags of wool, unwarped looms, cotton warp thread, a baby’s rocking horse and a dog’s water bowl.

Pochote_CKnox-2 Ultimately, it’s time to eat and what could be better than blue corn tortillas on the comal with your choice of chorizo and cheese, beans, or potatoes and spinach topped with a fresh egg. The health of Mexicans depends upon unadulterated non-genetically modified corn. It’s a constant battle here between the small farmers and the mega-producers like Monsanto. Indigenous corn, grown in the Oaxaca valley for 8,000 years, is laden with nutrition.

As we say in Mexico, buen provecho!

Two spaces open now in the Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing & Yoga Retreat. And, you may want to come with me as we go Looking for Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in April in Mexico City.


Market Town Sunday in Oaxaca, Mexico

Our Oaxaca Women’s Creative Writing and Yoga Retreat 2014 is coming to a close. We have been furiously writing this week, opening up to truth, reality, powerful voices, memories, love, comfort and despair.  Tonight, we will speak at a reading. Tomorrow, most will return home.  Today, I share this creative non-fiction piece with you as homage to life’s randomness.

Market Town Sunday in Oaxaca, Mexico 

First, getting to the bus.

The green bus they call Turtle is two blocks ahead of us. My impulse is to run after it and I start to squawk:  Stop.  Stop.  Let’s catch it, I say to the women who walk beside me, as I step out in front.  Uneven cobblestones underfoot slow me and I feel my ankle twist as my foot lands on a crevice between two stones.  I think, don’t trip and break a hip; don’t anyone else fall either. It’s a silent prayer for Suzie and one for the women who trail behind me now.  Accidents happen and I’m not ready to deal with another one.  I look back reassured they are taking it slow.  Still, I speed walk, pulling the old lady rolling shopping cart behind me, stopping every few steps to catch my breath and my footing.  The stones are slippery after years of others running before me, smooth from the beat of sun, the polish of rain, the tread of tires and tired feet.  The bus honks, hurry up. I imagine it will pull away any moment and the next one to carry us to the market town will take forever or thirty minutes.  Impatience is my cultural predisposition unlike this Oaxaca village where time drips like a leaky faucet. The driver waves. You take this as a signal and dart ahead like a bullet sprinter.  Your hair comes loose, flies away, sways like a tic tock pendulum with each leap until you reach the bus.  The rear lights flash red.   Now, I know it will wait for us.  We climb aboard, take our seats, look at each other, smile.  We made it.   There are no seat belts.

Second, woman in a gingham apron.

She boards the bus at the next stop.  All the seats are taken.  She stands in the aisle next to me, leaning tight against the seat back, an anchor.  The gingham apron she wears is brown and beige, a pattern of small checks that could be called plain, boring, undistinguished.   She is tidy.  As she turns to face forward, I see that each of the three buttons down the apron back is fastened with a matching fabric loop.  A perfect bow is tied at the back of her ample waist like a package ready to present as a gift.   Embroidered white daisies with deep yellow centers and green stems crawl across her bodice from elaborate baskets that mimic real life.  One of the two deep pockets on either side of the skirt likely contains the small purse with market money for rice, beans, chicken, roses for the empty vase on the altar room table. This is the uniform of Zapotec housewives.  The bus lurches forward as the driver lets out the clutch.  The bus sways.  Her moorings loosen. It is hot, though it’s only mid-morning.  In unison, she and I wipe our brows and our eyes meet. Her mouth opens into a wide smile.  Her fillings are gold and sparkly, reminding me of how the ancients drilled their teeth to embed precious stones and bits of gold, signs of wealth and prestige.  In that time, this was ample protection.

Third, buying tablecloths.

Do you mind? She asks, careful not to want this particular one too much.  Oh, no, says the other, I like either one.  You choose.  Both are blue, though one is the color of ocean and the other of sky.  I imagine the click, click, clack, clack of the flying shuttle loom that wove the threads into whole cloth, soon to drape a table, a bed, a comforter, all the comforts of home.  We concentrate on cloth, stroke the nubby cotton surface, admire the combinations of peach and minty green, plum and ash, rose and cream.  I am surrounded by sound:  a hurdy-gurdy accordion, a raucous laugh, screeches of children playing tag, the cheep, cheep, cheep of chicks caged, the thunder thump and beat, beat brass of salsa.  I hear Suzie’s sweet voice at lunch, excited about the trip, making plans.

How much, the shopper asks?  Doscientos pesos, says the vendor, plump, matronly, seasoned at sniffing what a buyer will pay.  The two hundred peso notes are green with the image of Sor Juana, Mexico’s high priestess of intelligence, women’s rights and devotion to study.  Just like us.  Just like Suzie.

Fourth, barrage of smells and sights.

Blue awnings, tarps spread across the sapphire sky, pillow clouds float by.  Guava, orange, apple, papaya, mango sit on tiers, altar to goodness and fulfillment to whomever worships here.  The scent of fruit mingles as if this is a secret potion mélange that will cure all.  I want some of that for Suzie, I think as I drift along the pavement inhaling the next sensation: smokey wood fires where chickens roast and red meat sears.  Do you see the red coals where fat drips? Do you hear the sizzle?  Watch the faces of women, flushed red, turning the red meat with tongs not quite long enough to keep their eyes from tearing up.   Women sing in mezzo soprano: tomates, tomates, ajo, ajo, diez por diez.   Scarves wrap their heads or carry babies, squash, flapping chickens, eggs, a bundle of kindling, dozens of lilies.   The scarves are intense turquoise, violet, magenta, black, cerulean, stamped in a Chinese factory with images of chrysanthemums, pansies, peach blossoms, lush green vines.   Perhaps, they are blue and white ikat made by a weaving machine in a far distant Mexican town where made-by-hand is only a memory.   Do you see their braids dangle down bent backs, wrapped in a tangle of red or purple or green ribbon?  Do you notice the ones whose barefoot feet are calloused or covered with worn leather huaraches, worn soles, souls seeking redemption, something to eat, shelter from intense heat?

Fifth, going home.

Together we pull the cart and carry the burden. We are overloaded with a day of waiting for money to dispense from the magic machine, then spending money, enough to make a difference in another’s life.  Buy a whistle.  Hear the police whistle direct traffic, the vroom-vroom motorcycle starting up and taking off, churning cart  wheels propelled by human feet and the grunt of the effort.  We make one last stop for art, for clay, for the hand-woven basket, for a perfectly ripe, ruby-red grapefruit. I speak a warning: Watch the speed bumps in the road, look out for that wheelbarrow filled with dripping honeycomb coming straight at us. Swerve around the gaggle of crouched women peeling nopal cactus paddles. Do you see those peddlers on bicycle carts careening toward you? The barriers are soft, not concrete.  We are not catapulted forward at sixty miles per hour.

We shift loads, trade our burdens, find a taxi driver to carry us home.  Three of us climb in the back, two of us wedge into the front alongside the driver.  No seat belts today.  I am wary, though we don’t have far to go.  Go slow, I tell him in Spanish, drive on the right shoulder.  Suddenly, up ahead smoke bellows, a vapor of grief trailing skyward.  A car on the highway is aflame surrounded by fire trucks.  An ambulance whizzes by.  Our driver downshifts into second.  His hand on the shifter pushes into my thigh.  Don’t goose me, I say, wiggling, giggling, knowing he doesn’t understand.  Then, again in Spanish, please use only first, third and fifth gear.  He laughs, reddens.  I am straddling the stick and it is almost up my ass.  My knees are jammed against the dashboard.  I tilt my head back into the space between the two front seats and know that with one stomp on the brake, my head would bounce forward, then back, forward again into the dashboard.

I think of Suzie in a coma and make a wish for life, full and unedited.  Today, I hear she briefly opened her eyes.

-Norma Hawthorne, March 3, 2014