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Friday, January 21, 2022

Mérida’s amazing market and bazaar renaissance

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
A large Christmas market at the Concha Acustica amphitheater at Parque de Las Americas. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

Mérida has long been known for its outdoor markets and bazaars. But since COVID-19 cases started to trend downward these sorts of events have really begun to proliferate like never before.

Markets in public parks have been a big part of life in Mérida for centuries. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht 

Part of the reason for this boom is that most folks have been closed indoors for so long and are looking for excuses to get out and about. 

But the other major factor comes down to simple economics. Like in much of the world, the pandemic brought with it the collapse of countless businesses, especially in the service and hospitality sectors.

Workers who suddenly found themselves out of work began to look for alternate sources of income by creating small businesses that they could run themselves. Many of these activities include baking, cooking, and the creation of several types of crafts and accessories. 

Aside from crafts and homemade goods, many bazaars focus on second-hand and vintage items. Photo: Yesica Benitez Chan

After a while, many of these entrepreneurs began to organize online and create collectives large and small to help them market and sell their products on social media.

The trend became particularly prominent among young women who came to be known as nenis. For a while there, the term took on some derogatory and classist connotations but is now widely used as a marker of pride.

“Some people like to throw around the term neni as if it was some sort of slur, but for me, it’s a point of pride. It’s about creating something from nothing and using your creativity to get ahead,” says Alejandra Crespo of Brujas MX, a local hair accessory brand. 

Alejandra Crespo, left, at her stand at a Christmas-themed market in Parque de las Americas. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

As the number of new COVID-19 cases began to taper down, these collectives of independent sellers began to pop up all over the city, hosting their own outdoor markets and bazaars.

While some of these collectives are organized around a certain type of product, such as shoes, others are open to anyone wanting to participate — though a fee is usually required.

Shoe vendors from Ticul at Mercadito Akropolis where the cost to vendors to set up a stand at an independent bazaar usually ranges between 400 and 1,500 pesos per day, depending on the venue. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Though similar events have been hosted by city hall for many decades, many independent bazaars began to be set up at cultural centers, parks, as well as plazas, and other public and private spaces.

At these markets and bazaars, you are likely to find everything from toys, to hair accessories and even some more “alternative” products such as sex toys and CBD oil. Photo: Yesica Benitez Chan

One of these more alternative bazaars, Mercada Latina, was held last weekend and featured entertainment provided by drag queens and other performers. 

Drag performer Kimmi Bomba at Mercada Latina, hosted at Casa Xcau on Centro’s Calle 60. Photo: Yesica Benitez Chan

Some venues like the French-Moorish mansion El Minaret have decided to get into the action and host their own bazaars during the weekends, attracting vendors and customers from across town. 

As is always the case in Mérida, street food and cold treats are never lacking wherever there is a crowd. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht

Most of these independent markets and bazaars are held on weekends and tend to attract a considerable number of buyers. However, some vendors feel that the market is beginning to get saturated, given the large number of events being held at the same time. 

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