Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

I hate shopping, but I love bazaars.

 

Where else can people-watching deliver such a cross-section of society and where else can you soak up such a rich gumbo of sounds and colors and tastes?

 

Even though big-box chain groceries can now be found throughout Guadalajara and most of Mexico, los mercados seem to capture the Mexican heart and soul in such an inimitable way that it’s impossible to picture a Mexico without them.

Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

 

Guadalajara is only – in charitable traffic – a drive of around 45 minutes from the Chapala Lakeside, which puts the Mercado Libertad – arguably the mother of all mercados – within easy reach.

 

It’s located in the heart of the city on the Calzada Independencia,  and served by the San Juan de Dios subway stop.

 

Finding a parking spot in the Mercado’s garage can be dicey, but there’s a parking garage  under the Plaza Independencia next to the Catedral a short walk away.

Plaza de los Mariachis, Guadalajara

San Juan de Dios jewelry market, Guadalajara

 

The Mercado Libertad sits between the Plaza de los Mariachis and the San Juan de Dios Mercado de Joyeria – the mother of all jewelry markets – where vigilant and well-armed security makes it more difficult to snap a photo than inside of a Las Vegas casino.

 

Picture instead in your mind’s eye a department-store-sized building packed with the booths of hundreds of jewelry merchants selling a rainbow of precious metals and stones in settings of every conceivable style and you’ll get the idea.

 

Food court, Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

Food court, Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

 

 

To truly absorb the Libertad takes the better part of a day, so take a cue from locals who breakfast or lunch at a Mercado food court that makes Stateside mall food courts look like glorified vending machines.

 

As with most of the businesses in the Mercado, these eateries are family-owned and operated businesses.

 

 

 

They typically take the form of an open kitchen circled by a lunch counter and tables.  While the kitchen equipment may be old and battered, it’s always spotless and everything is freshly prepared daily.

Mercado Libertad food court booth

 

Mariachis, Mercado Libertad food court, Guadalajara

Mariachis, Mercado Libertad food court, Guadalajara

 

As the day progresses diners are likely to be serenaded by bands of strolling mariachis; Guadalajara is the home of mariachi music and tequila… each of which is a whole ‘nother blog post!.

 

 

 

 

The Mercado is loosely organized into neighborhoods of like-merchandise booths arrayed around two cavernous atriums, one covered and the other open to the sky.

The impression quickly forms that some of these stalls have been operated by generations of families.

There are “neighborhoods” for shoes of all sorts, leather goods, woven textiles, designer fragrances, jewelry, consumer electronics, and more. Even the casual browser will soon realize that there are more than a few knock-offs among them.

Haggling over merchandise prices is almost an obligation, and even the uninitiated can quickly become consumed by the sport of it.

Mercado Libertad aviary, Guadalajara

Mercado Libertad aviary, Guadalajara

 

 

In the open air atrium toward the rear of the market is a pet market stocked with birds of every type and color.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fresh produce at the Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

Fresh produce at the Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

 

 

 

There are neighborhoods for fruits and vegetable vendors…

 

 

Spice merchant, Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

Spice merchant, Mercado Libertad, Guadalajara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…neighborhoods for spice merchants…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and neighborhoods for butchers.

Tripe & pigs' feet, Mercado Libertad carniceria, Guadalajara

Tripe & pigs’ feet, Mercado Libertad carniceria, Guadalajara

 

Mercado Libertad carniceria

This place recalls for me the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul.

 

Extending from broad aisles are narrow, Casbah-like passages of merchants packed in cheek-to-jowl.

 

Every flat surface is covered with merchandise and even more merchandise hangs like stalactites from overhead hooks. The visual clutter is an avalanche.

 

Every time I go to the Mercado I see something unnoticed on a past visit.

 

Every time I go I get into delightful conversations with the vendors.

 

Every time I go I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface.

If there’s such a thing as Mercado overload it has to be in my far distant future.   If you can’t find what you’re looking for at the Libertad, it’s probably unavailable elsewhere or you probably don’t really need it!

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