Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tuesdays at Tianguis

If it's Tuesday, you can find me at Tianguis

There are several mercados in San Miguel de Allende, but one of the most popular is the Tuesday market, known locally as La Placita or Tianguis. Tianguis is from the Nahuatl word tianquiztli, which means “marketplace”. Nahuatl, one of the indigenous languages of Mexico, was the language of the Aztecs, a group of seven Chichimec tribes who controlled Mexico from the 12th century A.D. until the Spanish conquest in the early 1500s. At that time, Tenochtitlan, the capital city of the Mexica tribe, had a network of markets that served 20,000-40,000 people a day.

I have always loved the open-air markets in Latin America. When I lived in Ecuador in the early 1970s, I discovered that each village held its market on a different day of the week. For example, I would go to Otavalo on a Saturday to shop for woven ponchos or blankets. To find the colorful, hand-sewn shigras (handbags), used by Andean women since Pre-Columbian times, I had to travel to Saquisilí on Thursdays.

You can buy just about anything at Tianguis -- fruits and vegetables, live birds, herbs for any ailment, meats and fish, freshly-made tortillas and other prepared foods. One section is similar to our flea markets or swap meets, where they sell shoes, new and used clothing, pots and pans, appliances, furniture, CDs and DVDs.

I bought some wonderful aguacates negros or black avocados. The skins are very thin and you bite into them as you would an apple! And, I always bring home platanos (bananas) and higos (fresh figs), which are my favorite fruit! I told my friend I wanted to plant un arbol de higos, which literally means "tree of figs". And, she taught me the correct word for fig tree, which is UNA HIGUERA.

Even if you don't buy anything, you can just stroll through the market and let the colors, sounds and smells captivate your senses.

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