By Antonio Ramblés
By Antonio Ramblés AKA Tony Passarello
Whenever I travel to someplace new the local version of tianguis is always high on my itinerary. It’s virtually guaranteed to deliver an instant lay of the land and a hi-def cultural immersion experience.
What is more common to the Lakeside expat experience than tianguis?
It’s broad appeal is not surprising. Weekly market bazaars are one of the oldest expressions of human community (the Nahuatl word tianguis is distinctively Mexican), and on the Ribera this truly moveable feast materializes in a different town each weekday beginning on Monday in Chapala.
Tianguis brings together an incredibly diverse cross-section of the Lakeside community more often and more consistently than just about any other event. In this social microcosm Mexicans and expats are represented – if in different mixes – among both buyers and sellers. Tianguis attracts customers ranging from householders to maids and cooks, and there’s something for every budget from purse to pocket change.
Tianguis – as with so many of Mexico’s open markets – is a personal experience in which it’s not unusual for frequent buyers and sellers to know each other on sight and for vendors to have fiercely loyal customers.
Any Mexican street market worth its salt features an eye-cluttering array of merchandise ranging from kitchenware to underwear and from jewelry to CD’s and DVD’s, and on this the tianguis in Ajijic is not lacking.
Ditto for freshly prepared hot food of the eat-and-walk variety.
The heart and soul of tianguis, though, is fresh fish, meat, produce, and flowers.
High end Stateside grocery chains like Whole Foods Market and HEB Central Market try to evoke the same sense of community, but without the small merchant touch it’s an inauthentic experience. (Try getting your car washed in its parking spot while you shop at a Stateside Safeway! Or getting your shoes shined or any extra set of keys made.)
There are at times a carny sort of sidelight to tianguis. Sort out the truly disabled mendicants from the panhandlers and solicitors for donations to charities of unknown character. Plan on encountering at least one musician playing for tips, and if more at least one who needs more practice before playing again in public.
For some tianguis visitors, though, it has little to do with buying or selling. Tianguis is just a likelihood of running into someone you know and need catching up on. It’s the office water cooler for the retired and not-so-retired, and a chance meeting at tianguis can easily morph into an extended lunch if not today then later in the week.
Shopping… street theater… community. What’s not to like about tianguis?
For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com