Commerce has seen many changes over the past few years, especially as people worldwide have found new ways to connect and work with one another. In spite of this rapid progress, traditional commerce and cultures remain strong in Mexico City's tianguis, derived from the Nahuatl word tianquiz(tli) for “market." These open air spaces have operated since before European invasion and colonization, when bartering was the primary means of commerce and transactions were done in large public areas like plazas and corridors. Eventually, products derived from copper and cacao became a form of currency with which to purchase basic necessities.
According to Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), many of the tianguis still in operation today can trace their roots back to the Pre-Hispanic era of Mexican history. These include the Cuetzalan market in Puebla, the Tianguistengo and Otumba market in Mexico State, the Tenejapa and San Juan Chamula market in Chiapas, the Chilapa market in Guerrero, the Zacualpan de Amilpas market in Morelos, and the Ixmiquilpan market in Hidalgo.
Today, even though many of Mexico's commercial spaces, notably Mexico City's Central de Abasto and the Jamaica, Merced, and San Juan Markets, have taken on a stationary approach to serving their communities, tianguis maintain their foothold in Mexican society and have even adapted to current conditions, such as those caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
It's fundamental to understand, explore, and analyze these semi-permanent spaces using urban and anthropological terms, especially when considering their significance to the families that come from as far as other cities and states in order to sell their goods in the capital. In essence, they are the representation of an active and vibrant public space driven by cultural and commercial forces.
To get an idea of these culturally and economically significant spaces, we invite you to look at a series of aerial images captured by Mexican photographer Alex González and explore this interactive map created by Jorge González that includes the exact location and hours of operation of Mexico City's 329 tianguis.