Mexico City Market Motorcycle

An evening can always start so innocent in Mexico City. I woke up to the bells of the church that sits opposite my window. My new room looks over the Temple of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius. A simple church with a very loyal and communal gathering. The bells don’t begin until a time that is matched to Mexican dawn, so about eleven AM, and ring until perhaps eleven pm. It beats waking up to machine gun construction and rabid hounds.

The plan for my Sunday was simple. I had been out the night before; a result of a visit to the museum of modern art and the subsequent food and drink that inevitably followed. I wasn’t hungover, at this point I drink so regularly that sleep deprivation and alcohol withdrawal just feel like the norm. It’s a return to my English normality.

I wanted to spend my day in the sun, visit a new market, have a bite to eat and grab a few bits. I was in the market for a poncho. After a conversation the night before I was missing my signature dressing gown. I realised that in the sun that was promised in the coming month on the beach, it would be the perfect attire to cover my disgustingly short shorts and substitute my gown. A Mexican gown equivalent.

Guitars in mexico

After drafting a few articles for my new job, to make my Monday easier, I made my way to Mercado de San Juan. It wasn’t a long walk and it took me on a route I hadn’t been before. I was looking to get a few pictures for a blog or two I have planned for the inevitable cultural vacuum that will result from being at a surfer beach.

I came across a covered market along the way full of what was advertised both at the door and via google, as an artisan market. This may be the spot I find my beautiful, sun-blocking, beach towel-doubling, culturally appropriating, poncho. I ducked in and began to peruse.

There was anything and everything you could want to bring home after a holiday to Mexico. Clay figurines, ponchos, rugs, blankets, pipes, pottery, patches & badges, and a list of trinkets and baubles as long as your arm. It was tat. It was the kind of thing someone has on their bookshelf as a conversation prompt so they can talk about their genuine, down to the third world, visit to the impoverished and trying world of Mexico. It was almost all produced in China, no doubt.

rugs in mexico

Polyester and acrylic, factory line painting, replicated clay. It was a little more colourful than your regular pocket-clutching market but it was also very clear that the reason this came up as number one on the google of “best place to buy genuine Mexican poncho” was that it was not the number one place to buy Mexican genuine poncho. I enjoyed my time there immensely. I got an idea of what I wanted, knew it wasn’t made of polyester, and dipped. There were so many Americans in there I may have actually developed a vocal fry. I made my way to the next section of the market to wash it out.

I entered San Juan market proper. It is a two-building, sprawling, market of food and clothing. The building I was in was the food bit, obviously.  I made my way around, taking in what they had on sale and enjoying the smells and gentle cajoling of the locals.

Edible Bugs

They had the usual fare. Fruit and veg, meats, sweets, and fish. They also boasted whole sections dedicated to bugs. Like a lot of markets, they had stalls with seating, making it possible to sit and eat the wares on sale. This was the first place I had been where you could sit and order a whole meal that would have you picking mandibles from the gaps in your teeth. I’ve eaten a few bugs in my time here, but I was peckish and didn’t fancy taking in my daily protein via grubs.

I headed to the fishmongers and grabbed myself a few oysters. They cost $15 pesos a go and they’re some of the best I’ve eaten, even without the Smörgås of hot sauce they provide. I gulped down a few sea snots and went on my way. I hadn’t found the fruit market I was looking for, that was for later in the week.

Oysters and hot sauce

I had forgotten it was a Sunday. Sundays play host to one of the most feral and wide-stretching markets in the city. I had visited before, wracked with hangxiety and sleep deprivation. It had, quite frankly, felt like a very nasty speedy acid trip. This time I was feeling much more mentally armed. I made my way over, picking up a bag of Mexican coffee beans along the way (finally).

Hanging meat mexico city

The market was as I remembered. Thankfully, due to it being a bank holiday, most Mexicans had left the city for the beach and it wasn’t so much pole-to-hole as shoulder-to-shoulder. The streets were packed, but there didn’t make me feel like I was in an iron maiden. Weaving my way through wasn’t quite possible but moving with the flow wasn’t glacial either.

I took some time to look around. I need some new attire. I have taken clothing with me that would be suitable for an English summer, it doesn’t fit even a spring here. Jumpers are not necessary. I need vests, and maybe a pair of shoes that aren’t Tims, or a pair of trainers that look like they have been used in nuclear testing. I’m not sure if I mentioned but Jordans are pretty cheap here.

Amazing Manaquin

Nothing really grabbed me, but I was having a nice time. The mannequins here are thicc as fuck, and for someone with a dry spell as long as mine, they make for pretty good conversation. Mexico obviously hasn’t heard about unrealistic expectations of women because I have never seen a Mexican who looks like these models, or anyone else for that matter.

As I mentioned previously, this market is known, not just for its wares, but also for the fiesta it contains. You head through the electronics, into the bootleg USB porn, hang a left at the poppers and knock off Ray Bans, and you find yourself in tented nightclubs. They sell three and a half litres of Mojito for $100 pesos. You can get three litres of beer for half that. They pump music in their wall-to-wall tents at a level that makes the ears bleed, and they’re packed to the back teeth with people. In a desperate push to get there, people ride motorcycles through the crowd, flattening flesh on the way. I wasn’t hungover and I fancied a drink.

I couldn’t fathom weaving my way into the crowds packed into the bars. They looked amazing but there’s a limit when you’re alone. There was an offer to join a group but I was feeling myself. If I was with a group, it would be perfect, but these kinds of audiences don’t facilitate the lonely drinker. Luckily I knew there were a few that did. I bulldozed my way through. It really helps when you’re a foot taller, I finally know how all my friends feel.

Watches Mexico City Market lagunilla

I found a bar; it was heaving but had an atmosphere I could get along with. Rather than a bar with a rapid-fire service, there were people sitting around, there was a slow vibe, and I was able to take a seat at the bar to watch the whole machine move as it did. When I say machine, I mean one massively overworked man hammering out litres of booze at a time. I sat and waited for him to work his way through his back order before he got to me.

In the fifteen minutes or so I was sat waiting I was approached by a man and his wife and child. They both had a drink, his being called Blue Smurf and mainly consisting of vodka, and hers being a litre of beer. He had minimal English to make a contrasting cocktail with my toilet Spanish, but he fed me his drink and we got on famously. Enrique is an uber driver, seller of Tamales with his mother, and also sold socks. The reason he was there was to buy socks at discount and resell.

Enrique fed me his drink until mine arrived; a litre of mojito with, and I counted, 180 ml of liquor in it. It cost me $70 Pesos. We sat and drank for a few hours, enjoying the music, enjoying each other’s incredibly broken language, and generally having a good time. He told me about his city, his football team, and I told him why I love his city and the ones I left behind.

As the night wore on the inevitable happened. At six in the evening the bars have to stop serving so we got some roadies and made our way. Apparently, his wife was going to drive me home. This would be a concern anywhere in the UK, but after seeing how the Mexicans drive, it kind of made sense.

We weaved our way through the throngs of people, bumping into friends of theirs, sharing shots from bottles of mezcal from other revellers, and enjoying the setting sun. Their ten-year-old seemed like an old hand at this and wasn’t the only kid in the crowds. He bumped fists and chatted shit with the rest of them.

Mexico doesn’t seem to let children stop the life they lead. It makes sense really. The fiesta is instilled at a young age. Music, conversation, food, and all the other beautiful things that go with the party of being an adult aren’t reserved by age. They can be shared and enjoyed from a young age. Children can be involved in it, and understand. It isn’t a taboo subject to enjoy yourself, it is a way of life.

Me and he boys in mexico city

We got one final drink before we hopped in their car. As we watched the evening settle in we talked about the art on the streets, the recent changes in the history of the city, and the difference between a Mexican Michelada and a British shandy. It comes down to spice. My Spanish is coming along.

We jumped in their car, originally with her at the wheel, but when the traffic got bad, he took over. He was fuck-eyed, to say the least. I had been drinking about two hours less than he, and I probably wouldn’t have ridden a push bike. All that being said he elbowed and pushed his way through the traffic like a seasoned pro.

They asked where I stayed, popped it into the SATNAV and dropped me 45 minute walk away. I had 5% battery, luckily I know my way via landmarks now so the only issue is a boring walk without tunes.

street art mexico city

As personal development goes, I have landed a job that would make 22-year-old me incredibly proud, I have made a friend or two that makes my heart calm, and I have moved into a place that has sunlight.

My previous place was cheap. That’s why I moved there; it was cheap and was in an area adjacent to somewhere safe. It also had no light, no air, and no inspiration. It quickly killed any kind of creativity I would have writing because I was trying to create without sunlight. Ever wonder why the troglodytes produced no books?

My hosts offered me their place. They said I could move in for $5000 pesos a month. Obviously, I jumped at the opportunity. Who wouldn’t I, it was a block away from me, had a double bed, balcony, kitchen, living room, and all the rest. She said I would have their old room which had a bathroom attached and they would take the other bedroom.

I didn’t realise they wouldn’t have it sorted when I moved in. The first night I was there, they set up a blow-up bed on the floor, which they didn’t blow up. The floor also being the tiled living room floor. The three dogs slept around it. This was not my bed, this was theirs. They hadn’t, in the two weeks they had known I was coming, sorted it. And for good reason.

Street art Mexico City

I felt terrible. I was in their bed, in their house, and for financially nothing. I asked why she was even thinking about renting out her room. She explained that herself and her partner are working multiple jobs, around the clock; always busy. Why? I asked. Chill out, you know? She needs a kidney. She needs to buy a kidney and she is sleeping on the floor of her living room whilst I sleep in her bed.

They are still in the living room, they still haven’t cleared the room, and they still haven’t bought a bed pump.

Honestly, I have never been more comfortable.

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