While we were at the market, we saw a number of pilgrims who had traveled for the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Some of their vehicles were as lavishly decorated as the town, with signs, streamers, and a lot of bright colors. The Festival had just occurred the day before, so people hadn’t returned to their homes yet, which gave them an opportunity to check out what was available at the market.
Seeing the centuries-old stone church looming over the marketplace drove home the contrast between old and new in Merida. The marketplace is full of bright colors and modern items, with visitors dressed in modern clothes, some riding bicycles or driving cars. Clearly a part of the current century. But many of the buildings in the city date back to the 1500s, including the Cathedral of San Ildefonso, which as mentioned a few pages back is among the oldest on the American continent. Having this blend of past and present was an interesting dichotomy.
One of the more disconcerting parts of the market was the meat hung in unrefrigerated booths for sale. It didn’t seem particularly healthy, since raw meat can spoil easily. But our guide told us that the meat sells too quickly to spoil, and the vendors seemed to be doing good business despite the lack of refrigeration.
Another thing that caught our attention was the tortilla shop, where women visiting the market could rent machines to grind corn for their tortillas. A number of women were gathered there preparing the flour for the tortillas they would make either to sell or to feed their families. In other parts of the market, you can watch the tortillas being made, and then can purchase them to eat at still other booths.
In Merida’s Sunday market, you can buy just about anything you can think of at so many booths and shops that it would probably be impossible to see them all. Our guide did his best to make sure we saw as much as we could, though, and it was a very enjoyable part of the trip. Even though tourists shop at the market, the locals do as well, and of course the vendors are all local to the Merida area, so seeing what’s for sale at the market and watching the vendors and customers gives more of an idea of what real life, as opposed to tourist life, is like there.
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