Every Mexican town of size has a mercado – a market – where everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to hardware can be purchased for economic prices. In Guanajuato, locals flock to Mercado Hidalgo in the Centro for their daily needs. Mercados in general are an ideal place to experience authentic Mexican culture but this particular one also offers interesting history and architecture.
Mercado Hidalgo was originally intended to be a train station. Built on the site of the old Gavira bullfighting ring, construction began in 1905 and the completed structure was inaugurated in 1910 by President Porfirio Diaz as part of Mexico’s centennial independence celebrations. Most Mexicans never give much thought to the architecture of the building; for them it is just the place to do their daily shopping or grab a bite to eat. Yet visitors are awed by the cavernous, T-shaped building with its unlikely facade of pink cantera stone. Measuring an impressive 230 feet long by 115 deep, its high walls soar to an enormous domed roof that is crowned with a cupola and a weather vane lightning rod. Inside, 34 large windows allow sunlight to stream into the dim interior, crammed with stalls and thick with pedestrian traffic at all hours of the day.
Old women sit behind rickety wooden tables heaped with exotic, never-before seen fruits and nopal cactus pads that have been stripped of their needles in preparation for roasting. Mountains of precariously stacked plastic ware lean into the aisles, seemingly ready to topple at the slightest touch. Auto parts, butcher shops, clothing, stacks of mismatched shoes, party goods; most anything can be found here. Mercado Hidalgo is so popular that it has spawned extensions of the retail space. The left-hand door leads out to the Gavira market, a traditional Mexican eatery, while the opposite door leads to Gavira plaza, an open-air market, and if that’s not enough shopping, the streets surrounding the market are choked with thiny retail stores.
Photo Credits: Barbara Weibel
Article by Barbara Weibel of Hole In The Donut Travels