Things to do in Oaxaca: market culture (part two)

Central markets: 20 de Noviembre and Benito Juárez
In the heart of downtown Oaxaca, Mercado 20 de Noviembre and Mercado Benito Juárez, across the street from one another, focus as one large market that spills out into the surrounding streets, although different types of goods are sold in each.  Benito Juárez sells mostly food, while 20 de Noviembre contains mainly handicrafts and comedores.

The comedores in 20 de Noviembre are a great place to eat all kinds of Oaxacan specialties, from bread and chocolate in the morning to mole, enfrijoladas, chicken soup, and more in the afternoon, and barbecued meat in a different aisle.  It’s difficult to have a bad meal in the comedores: ask a local for their recommendation, or choose any that looks busy.

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comedor in Mercado 20 de Noviembre
photo (c) Ron Gurantz, 2008

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Things to do in Oaxaca: market culture (part one)

You’re studying at the ICO, and you’ve taken one of our cooking classes.  You’re pumped to try out your new-found knowledge.  What’s next?  Go shopping and immerse yourself in Oaxaca’s market culture.

Market culture
Almost anything can be purchased at Oaxaca’s many markets, from furniture and handicrafts to fruits, vegetables and prepared food.  Food, both raw and prepared, has a fixed price, but buying any sort of artisan good requires careful bargaining.  (In shops, these goods also have fixed prices.)  In general, the more expensive or more unique the item, the more you can bargain.  For a pair of shoes, you might talk a price of 130 pesos down to 115, but you might get a 450-peso leather briefcase for less than 400. Always remember: the point of bargaining isn’t to win, or to get the best possible price.  The point instead, is twofold: you want to reach a price that both buyer and seller find acceptable.  Even more importantly, the point is to have a social interaction between buyer and seller, investing the transaction with human warmth (and giving you a chance to practice the Spanish that you are learning at the ICO).

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