Guadalajara, Mexico - There’s no better way to get a crash course on any culture than from watching the street theater of buyers and sellers as they shop and haggle in an open market. If Guadalajara’s Mercado Libertad is the Wal-Mart of mercados, then Guadalajara’s Abastos is the Trader Joe’s. Here you expect great prices as much as you expect high quality merchandise and items that you just can’t buy anywhere else.
As I enter, I see, covering the entire side of an adjacent building, a faded sign. I can’t help but think about the many stories that must certainly have unfolded beneath it.
It’s hard to tell where Abastos ends, because its warehouses and shops cover more than 30 city blocks. The intersection of Lazaro Cardenas and Mariano Otero is a good place to begin. Within eyesight is a parking garage which offers a view of the area that can give you a much-needed lay of the land before you plunge in.
The Foodie in me can’t help but be impressed by the fact that this is where the pros in the restaurant and grocery businesses come to shop... and that it’s also open to the public!
The heart of Abastos is its aisles lined with booths selling fresh produce, meats, and seafood, but in adjacent shops it’s possible to outfit an entire restaurant from tables and chairs to china, flatware, uniforms, and kitchen hardware.
The produce is, well, almost too beautiful to eat. Brilliantly colored and symmetrically shaped, it’s too perfect for a still-life.
Everything here is offered in the giant commercial size. Meat cutters disassemble entire cows. There are cheese wheels the size of spare tires. Sweets are the size of bricks. Never, though, did I see a merchant refuse to sell a smaller quantity.
This city-within-a-city needs to be fed and, while the eateries are not fancy, you can find just about any kind of meal you desire somewhere in one of its pots or on its grills.
I snap a shot of some great-looking fish on ice and amble slowly down the aisle only to be halted by the sound of someone calling out behind me. I turn to find that the fish mongers are following me down the corridor hauling a whale of a fish, inviting me to get a better shot. That’s the kind of place it is.
When you come, drive a big SUV and bring the largest ice chest you can find because there’s no way you’ll leave here empty-handed!
How to Get There
To get to the Abastos from the Ribera de Chapala: From the Chapala highway, exit left on Lazaro Cardenas and drive about 7 kilometers. Abastos is on the left just before the intersection with Mariano Otero.
From the Jocotopec highway, turn right off Lopez Mateo at Plaza del Sol onto Mariano Otero until you find the Abastos on your right, just before the intersection with Cardenas.Click Here for a Google Map to El Mercado de Abastos in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.