Guadalajara’s biggest market offers bustling sights, decadent aromas and captivating people
Long before I first stepped inside the biggest market in my hometown of Guadalajara, Mexico, I had a picture of it in my mind — San Juan de Dios market wasn’t safe, I would likely be robbed. It was crowded, and the fear of becoming lost would become real. It was dangerous, and where something would probably happen to me.
Years passed by and even as a young adult I still didn’t know the inside of the San Juan de Dios market. The first time I stepped in it I was surprised about what no one had told me. Yes, it could be dangerous and scary, but it was also intense in a different way: bright colours exposing themselves at the sight of the costumers, the vivid choreography people were part of to fit through the slim aisles, the vast spectrum of smells and the different combinations they made, the isolated noises that build to an intense buzz that separated my feet from the ground.
When I got inside I felt as if I had discovered the little nucleus that pumped life to the surroundings: pouring life and culture, and shouting: “This is Mexico!”
The sunlight becomes duskier and duskier, as it goes through the huge star like skylight on the roof. The artificial light would also take a part on the pale illumination of the market — it could even warm me up, as I walked through the corners of the butcheries where they sell fresh meat. The pavement would acquire a reddish glow as the fresh blood flowed towards the drain.
Photo by Nidia Beltrán
While walking through the market, I could see a young man running from stand to stand, asking for change and returning to his family business, where he worked on the weekends. This young man would help his mother and his brothers with their food stand, serving menudo (traditional Mexican soup) and barbecued meat tacos. The food would come out of these gigantic pots and be served on plastic colored dishes. Some customers would eat on their feet, if they couldn’t find a spot on the few high chairs, leaving less space to the pedestrians rolling around the aisles.
The constant yells of parrots and barks of dogs announced the proximity of a patio in the heart of the maze. As I made my way through it, I could smell the leather of the huaraches (sandals) the man with a prominent mustache sold, sitting on his chair. His face was the only thing to be seen among all the shirts, sweaters and huaraches that filled up his tiny stand.
Photo by Nidia BeltránOnce I was out, I could see the best fruits of the season exposed under the warm veil of the afternoon sun, the kids playing football and running around up and down the stairs. The same stairs that more than once served as seat for the exhausted men that had been working all day selling brooms and mops at the street; and for the women who had just finished buying the vegetables and meat for the week. The whole picture seen from the top of those stairs was marvelous.
The golden light caressing the brownish and thick skin of that hardworking man, whose wide pores expelled big pearl shaped drops of sweat on his forehead as he offered a taste of the mangos and pineapples he had on his stand — always with that honest smile, always with that strong voice. Every little noise was a story, a pleasant conversation, a successful sale, bluster, movement, life.