Last Friday I went to the huge market held every week in the city of Ocotlan de Morelos. It’s famous for its size, the range of goods on sale from goats to grapes, sugar cane to shoes, and its low prices. Craftspeople, farmers and sellers come from the local area and at the end of the day they gather to barter their remaining goods among each other.
I was with a group of five women on a mission – we had to buy fruit and flowers for the Day of the Dead, especially flowers. The plan was to start off reasonably early but the 40 minute journey took us two hours as major roads were blocked by strikers and by the time we got there the city was heaving with buyers and sellers.
We decided to split up as it was almost impossible to go around as a group and and at one point I found myself in the inner inner food hall. I say hall because I know I was a long way from daylight, but I think it was a massive tented arena rather than a permanent structure, but I could be wrong. I do know it was a maze filled with music, smoke from cooking pots and people. There were prickly pears; tiny lemons; spring onions the size of a fist; giant garlic; heaps of blackened peppers and chillis, smoked or pickled I couldn’t tell; live turkeys looking at potential customers with a baleful eye, dead chickens, yellow and scrawny by British standards but oozing flavour and the good things of life when cooked; sheets of beef hung from poles, cut so thin you could almost see through them, and ribbons of meat bobbled with lard decorating the side of stalls. It was a mass of sounds and smells and things I couldn’t put a name to.
I made it to the outer inner section where flowers were sold and it was like no flower market I’d ever seen. It was the colour and the fresh sweet smell that made the difference. It wasn’t cloying as a mass of flowers can be, these weren’t long out of the ground and were sold with their roots still intact. By this time our group had gathered together again and we drove home – via more road blocks – with a car stuffed with marigolds. We only paused for a bowl of ice cream made from cactus fruit. I’ve never tasted anything quite so good….