Timothy Young | Essays

Dispatch from La Lagunilla

A thousand little bronze things at La Lagunilla market in Mexico City

For a truly immersive experience of modern Mexico—and Mexico City, in particular—I recommend an afternoon at La Lagunilla, the massive flea market situated about ten blocks north of the Zocalo. This market, open every day of the week, encapsulates and concentrates the exciting qualities of the traditional mercado with the thrill of discovery of new sights, smells, and tastes. And if you long to be really close to your fellow shoppers, you’ll be quite satisfied. (If you have claustrophobia or a fear of crowds, take this as a warning that you’ll likely be caught in human gridlock at some point in your wanderings.) 

La Lagunilla is large enough  to be subdivided into specialized sections. At the southern end are furniture stores (new and used) and bridal and quinceañera shops (though since many of these are freestanding, they may not be considered a formal part of the actual flea market). The main thoroughfare, along Calle Comonfort, is where you’ll find everything you need—or, more accurately, never knew you needed: T-shirts with Mayan designs; chile rellenos, tlacoyos, boiled peanuts, and chamoyadas to satisfy your hunger and thirst; raw and polished semi-precious stones (lapis lazuli, malachite, a rainbow of quartz); portable boom boxes; a hundred varieties of jewelry; mega-boxes of diapers; herbs with magical qualities. The big draw for many tourists is the Sunday tianguis, the antique market that pops up once a week around the triangle near the Glorieta de Cuitláhuac. 

Old bulbs for projectors

Like any worthy antique market, there are objets of varying provenance, things gently—or heavily—used, handcrafts, even massive windows rescued from long-gone art nouveau buildings. But the real treasures are packages of old art and office supplies found every few stalls or so, vintage islands of original packaging and untouched contents. This new old stock is comprised of bottles of ink, boxes of fabric dye, rolls of pressure sensitive tape, tins of face creams, school composition books. Every year, it seems that this stuff is harder to find, meaning that the stock is being depleted, never to be replaced. I suggest you go soon …

A replacement arm for a record player 

Face cream from another era

Fabric dye

Typewriter ribbons

Mending tape

Calling all office supply fetishists: notebooks, inks, wells, pencils

Posted in: Arts + Culture, Social Good

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