Saturday, April 6, 2013

El Mercado ...

I love to stroll through the historic El Mercado in downtown San Antonio at every opportunity. It feels much like shopping in Mexico, but with far less travel involved. The restaurants and shops that fill our Market Square offer a variety of foods and crafts indigenous to Mexico.

Image via Dos Mujeres.

I particularly enjoy the Mexican folk art in the shops. Serious enthusiasts as well as appreciative tourists love the handcrafted papier-mâché art. Some of the most sought after pieces depict the 'tree of life' and vignettes of daily village life. Pottery pieces also abound with beautifully decorated fired clay painted in rich colors.


Without exception, the Virgin of Guadalupe can be found on items for sale at every tienda in markets near and far. The celebrated Roman Catholic icon of the Virgin Mary is Mexico’s most popular religious and cultural image. This 'Queen of Mexico' is emblazoned on trinkets and tee shirts, crafted of every type of material and frequently accompanied by 'milagros,' the small, tin, religious folk charms that are traditionally used for healing purposes and as votive offerings in Mexico.

Image via The Virgin Rose.

Mexican folk art often reflects religious devotion. The Sacred Heart is generally depicted as a flaming heart shining with divine light. Here it is represented in a framed mirror cut from tin and painted to symbolize the transformative power of divine love.


These market shops are a great place to find dinnerware and serving pieces in familar designs, along with carved wood furnishings made by skilled artisans whose trade has been passed down through generations.

Image via Ulla Benulla.

Small altars known as nichos or retablos, are decorative religious altars used to display patron saints or honor the dead. These elborate shadow box designs are popular market fare that can also host images of pop culture such as figures from the Loteria, Day of the Dead characters, and folk heroes.


A day at the mercado is not complete without some of the tasty treats found in the panadería or bakery.

Mexican tiled graduation cake by Sweet Kiera.

Cakes, cookies, and empanadas (my personal favorite) are worth the wait at the counter. 

Flamenco guitar cookies couldn't be sweeter. Image via Babble.

Anytime I long for a visit to our southern neighbor, I just head to our charming markets here at home!

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