My affection for markets is well-known. I just can’t get enough of stalls with goods piled high, artisans offering unique crafts, ethnical or organic food samples, musicians and visitors filling their colorful bags with all sorts of acquisitions. The festive atmosphere has a positive effect on me.
Now, markets are as varied as grains of salt on a beach. Within all this assortment of options, there is one thing I can affirm: markets in Mexico can be classified in a league of their own.
In many Mexican cities, life is centered on markets. When the dawn breaks the streets are desolated but the market is packed with homemakers and restaurant owners looking for the freshest ingredients.
In Puebla, I found a different type of market. This one is well known for its crafts. It is called El Parian. If you are a Spanish speaker, the word “parian” may have a vague meaning (at least it does for me). This is because the word comes from Tagalo (the language spoken in the Philippines). Not surprisingly, it means “market”. Basically, every city under the domain of the Spanish crown had a commercial area named like that (remember Spaniards colonized the Philippines). Funny because I heard a lot of people saying, “Let’s go to the Parian market.” Mmmm, they are saying market twice (like when you say: “I want a Chai Tea,” you are saying the word tea twice).
The first “parian” in Puebla was established in a plaza called San Roque. In 1796, the market was moved to its current location since the stalls were obstructing the plaza. With time, El Parian started to be known for its crafts.
The market itself has a unique architecture and ornamental details. It consists of old style stalls linked together. The ceiling consists of connected concrete semicircles. Walls are covered with Talavera tiles which gives it a typical Pueblan style. The floor is painted with interesting, funny figures and there are benches to rest or people watch.
Nowadays, you can find typical crafts from the state of Puebla and other parts of Mexico. Keep your eyes open for talavera, textiles, leather, wood, onyx, ceramic, jewelry, copper, wax dolls, puppets, paper from the town of Pahuatlan, candies, mole paste and souvenirs. The streets surrounding the markets are also full of stores selling interesting items. The area is also considered a gastronomy corridor. Once you get close, lots of restaurant waiters are going to start giving you flyers announcing the day specials.
El Parian is in my opinion a must see even for non-shopping lovers (like me). If you are looking for unique pieces, examine the item to determine if the quality fits your expectations. Haggle (with respect) to see if you can get a better price.
Location: 4 Oriente and 6 Norte, about 4 blocks from the zocalo.
What market has surprised you? Let me know in the comments section below.