Tianguis de Chapala

by Joy Whitehead / Sep 27, 2012 /

In Chapala, Mexico, there are several open-air markets, but the Tianguis (Market) de Chapala is different. It's not a tourist attraction, which is good because you get the cheapest prices on yummy fresh fruits, vegetables, and a wide variety of other products.

 

The Lakeside area of Chapala has a Monday market where they only sell prepared foods; a Tuesday market between Chapala and the nearby town of Ajijic where the gringos (light skinned people from Canada, the US, and even Europe) go to buy organic food; and a Wednesday tianguis in Ajijic where the local artists go to sell their works of colorful art, pottery, hand-woven baskets, and home décor items as souvenirs.

 

In the multiple entrances of the Chapala tianguis, there are some taco sellers and even a few pizza makers! Most places sell boiled pig skin and cow eye tacos. You have to tell the taco makers what kind of tacos you like, so it is important to know how to pick the kind of meat or organ you want.  My dad tried a pig skin tostada, which looks like thick rolled up white jello on a crunchy fried corn tortilla, and he didn't like it. The pizzas, on the other hand, smell and look delicious!

 

A little farther down into the market, you might see someone selling whole chickens. Head, beak, feet, and innards.  The chicken vendors will usually offer to cut up the chicken any way you like it or take the bones out and skin off.  There are other people pushing carts with fresh fish, heads and eyes included. 

 

The whole chickens for sale at the Tianguis de Chapala, Mexico

The whole chickens for sale at the Tianguis de Chapala

 

When you buy some meat there, you will receive it in a plastic bag.  They take a chunk of the meat you ordered and place it in the plastic bag, and weigh it. When you grab it, the meat feels cold and mushy.  You might be able to purchase some eggs from these same people. The eggs will most likely come in a plastic bag, too. It smells pretty bad around here, like raw meat mixed with sweaty men, overly-perfumed women, and a few dirty dogs that run around eating scraps.

 

The middle of the streets of the tianguis are common places to cart more goods around for sale, like horchata, a sweet, refreshing, and weird rice drink that is normally mixed with cinnamon.  Another thing Mexicans sell in the carts is candy.  It's usually a mixture of different types of nuts with chili, or chocolate candy-covered almonds.

 

There are tons of fruit and vegetable vendors, and this area can get loud!  With all of the vendors shouting out prices, and the people trying to be heard, it can get a little bit hard to shop. Sometimes the fruit vendors will have some free samples of their products, usually pineapple or watermelon with chili which tastes sweet, but also spicy. The pineapple is the best, because of its sweetness.

 

There are a few booths that sell clothing, like shirts, pants, shoes, and even underwear! They usually hang the underwear from the metal bars extending from the frames that hold up their tarps, while the shoes, shirts, and pants are hung up on wire racks inside the booth. I bought some shoes from a vendor there and they're comfortable, and they look great! Only, they say that they're the Puma brand, but nobody really knows if they are genuine or not.

 

There are also some people who sell little birds, chicks, and even little Chihuahua puppies! Near Easter time they will dye the little chicks in bright neon colors, including pink, red, blue, green, purple, and orange.

 

Beside one of these pet vendors is a road that goes straight through the tianguis. We usually take a bus that goes on this road. There are multiple buses, so you have to find the right one or you'll be dropped off at the bus station which is about a 10 minute walk from the Tianguis, instead of at one of the entrances.

 

Near one of the entries, there are some vendors with lots of different household type things, like lemon squeezers, matches, cheese graters, brooms, and more! Some of these places will have coloring books, crayons, and cheap little toys. Most of these vendors sell birdcages, too!

 

If you're brave enough to go, be sure to bring bags to hold all of the great fruits, veggies, meats, and other surprises you'll buy - because some of the vendors don't give you bags with handles and you don't want to have to carry 10 kilos of food around the market for an hour! The experience of shopping in a real Mexican market is great, even with all of the strange and unusual things sold there.

 

 

 

 

Joy Whitehead is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.

 

Photo courtesy and copyright Joy Whitehead