Supermarkets (and more recently, hypermarkets) have been a part of Mexico’s commercial landscape for the last forty years.
In places like the US and the UK, supermarkets have steadily lured custom away from local stores by offering customers enormous ranges of goods including comestibles, homewares, hardware, and pharmaceuticals conveniently gathered in one place. The result has been that many of the local ‘mom and pop’ stores have closed down and vanished from the trading landscape.
In Mexico, this has not come to pass.
It’s still possible and practicable to shop for your food locally in Mexico, often a short walk from your home, at stores and open-air markets which provide an abundance of fresh foods delivered to the stores early each morning, or produced daily on the premises. In recent years, there has also been a proliferation of local ‘organic markets,’ in certain towns and cities.
At these intimate centers of trade, you can get to know the local store or stall owners, talk with the butcher about which cuts are best for a meal you want to prepare, choose seasonable fruit and vegetables from ripe selections, wrap warm corn tortillas into a cloth cover almost straight from the oven which produces them, and buy delicious and tasty bolillo bread rolls which are baked continuously throughout the day.
Local independent stores you’ll still find in Mexico
The choice of local, specialized, food stores in Mexico’s cities, towns and villages is ample and inviting. Store names you’ll see regularly include:
- Frutas y Legumbres — the local greengrocer selling fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices;
- Polleria — offering fresh chicken, they also sell eggs and condiments to compliment chicken dishes;
- Rosticeria — roast chickens from a spit; they also sell sauces and other condiments to complement a roast chicken meal;
- Carniceria — butcher, selling a variety of meat, and offering advice on different cuts;
- Tortilleria — selling freshly pressed, warm tortillas, straight off the machine that makes them, and in some places they are hard-pressed and cooked on a hot plate;
- Salchichoneria — delicatessen; selling a range of hams, cold cuts, cheeses, hors d’oeuvres, and other cured meats;
- Panaderia — locally bakery, selling fresh sweet and savory breads;
- Pescaderia — fish mongers; these are more often seen at coastal locations.
In addition to the established local stores and open-air markets, you will often see ambulant traders parked on the street selling fresh seasonal produce. These traders most often sell fruit or veg that is currently in abundance due to a glut harvest —examples include mandarins, oranges, pineapples, or mangoes— straight out of the back of a truck, or perhaps off a barrow or folding table which they set-up for the day. It’s an ideal way to buy fresh seasonal produce at the lowest prices.
While millions of people will continue to shop at their local super and hypermarkets every week, there also continues to be a strong demand in Mexico for fresh foods and other essential everyday items purveyed by local stores and traders. These local shops, open-air markets, and street traders continue to thrive in Mexico; in good part, because they are conveniently located close to local neighborhoods often in walking distance to your home, and they’re regularly supported by local people who who value their presence in the local community.
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