Merida, Yucatan — It’s not just that the ceiling fell in on a jewelry repair shop last week. It’s not so much the smells, the leaking roofs and tangled cables that persist, even after what seemed like a big renovation in 2015.
It’s all those things, combined.
The historic Lucas de Galvez municipal market, the chaotic and colorful labyrinth of tiny stalls selling everything from flowers to clothes to fresh fish, fruit and spices, needs basic repairs.
Drains overflow continuously, often leaving muddy puddles on the floors. Some metal stalls have rusted out and are covered with cobwebs. Tenants note a lack of fire extinguishers.
More than 2,000 tenants work in the city-owned market, and despite its problems, remains an essential part of residents’ lives. Every day, around 100,000 shoppers visit the mid-century-era market, as well as neighboring San Benito market, built in 2004.
In 2015, a 55-million-peso restoration took place at Lucas de Gálvez. Two years later, another 2 million was spent on deep cleaning and painting.
Now, the city announced a 200-million-peso overhaul at the sprawling market, said Mayor Renan Barrera Concha, who was also in charge during the 2015 project.
If it comes, the work is overdue.
“I ask the authorities to get their act together and to fix the market,” said Miguel Peña Ronquillo, who for more than a decade has been selling food next to the rubble and garbage that accumulates in the unfinished stalls at an area called La Pepita. Only a mesh separates his stall from the filth next door.
“I’m sorry that tourists are covering their noses; what an ugly image they take from our city,” said Peña Ronquillo.
Indeed, the market is featured in guide books (Fodors calls Lucas de Galvez “pungent”) and on televisions shows like Martha Stewart’s and Rick Bayless’.
The issue appeared to come to a head around 3 p.m. Thursday when the concrete ceiling crumbled at El Delfin, a jewelry repair stall. No injuries were reported.
Police cordoned off the area from onlookers.
Market vendors pay fees and taxes that are meant to fund upkeep at Lucas de Galvez. One witnessed told a reporter that despite written complaints, the market’s maintenance has been deferred, “but for Carnaval, there is money.”