Things That Matter

For The First Time In 500 Years, Mexico’s Famed Guerrero Market Is Closing And It’s Having A Huge Impact On The Community

Mexico is home to thriving mercados that provide much of the nation’s beautiful and diverse produce to locals across the country. From Mexico City’s famed La Merced (once the largest market in the Americas) to La Ciudadela (the place to get artisan Mexican goods) – these markets have been a lifeline to both vendors and consumers for hundreds of years.

Several mercados predate the arrival of Europeans to the country and are steeped in rich traditions. One such mercado that has been around – and in continuous operation – for more than 500 years is the Chilapa Sunday tianguis in Mexico’s Guerrero state. But now, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, it’s been forced to close its doors for the first time in its history.

The closure of the Guerrero Market will have severe repercussions for the community.

Raul Barragán / Flickr

The Chilapa municipal government notified the more than 1,000 vendors who set up their booths under the plastic tarps each Sunday that the tianguis would be cancelled as of yesterday, and would remain closed for the two following Sundays.

The pandemic had already begun to take its toll on the weekly flow of goods in Chilapa, as the number of visitors has decreased dramatically during the crisis. For weeks, the market ran at minimum capacity, covering local demand but little more. Often vendors could barely sell of more than a quarter of the goods they were bringing.

Now the subsistence farmers, artisans and other local and regional merchants who depend on the tianguis for their livelihood don’t even have the option to barter their goods, a custom that is still practiced in this and other such markets in Mexico.

One of the oldest markets in Mexico, the Chilapa tianguis has persisted in spite of adversity, especially during the last decade, due to drug-related violence.

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

The situation came to a head in 2014 when the violence severely slowed down market activity, but did not stop it completely. Many rural transportation companies suspended services, making it difficult for farmers to make it to the city to sell their goods. Others never returned: they were either killed or fled the insecurity.

The violence kept market activity to a minimum for years, but nothing was able to stop it completely, until now.

The crisis has hit those in the informal economy hard.

Credit: Raul Barragán / Flickr

The coronavirus is gutting economies around the world, but the damage is proving particularly damaging in Mexico, a country that was already in a slump before the pandemic hit.

Some street vendors in Baja California Sur have even resorted to bartering directly for food to survive in the absence of the tourists on which they depend for sales. Such vendors commonly earn just enough for them and their families to get by day to day and do not have the option to wait out the Covid-19 pandemic in home isolation.

“I need food in order to feed my children, that’s why I’m exchanging my hats for food,” said Margarita, a street vendor originally from Oaxaca, told Mexico News Daily. She supports her family by selling woven sunhats from Oaxaca, Guerrero and Puebla.

The vendors in Los Cabos aren’t the only ones in the country who have had to adapt to the caprice of the Covid-19 pandemic. Street merchants from Acapulco to Cuernavaca to Mazatlán have been changing out their normal products for face masks in order to meet demand and be able to get by.

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