Tlacolula is a city about a 20 minute drive from Oaxaca, famous for both its 16th century church and its huge Sunday market, to which thousands of people from the neighbouring towns and countryside flock. We took a cab out there the day after arriving in Oaxaca on Saturday night to check it out.
The market really is absolutely ginormous – up to 1,000 individual traders – and quite disorienting, although it’s hard to get completely lost as it’s all on gridded streets. The main things on sale are vegetables and fruit, toys, clothing, kitchenalia, and street food. There’s a pleasing lack of souvenirs or tourist things because at heart it’s a market for locals, who come from all the nearby towns and villages to shop and socialise. So for us it was really a chance to soak in the culture and atmosphere (and to eat) rather than to shop.
Amongst the stalls was a hectic little funfair, with dodgems, foosball tables and shooting galleries.
And in the middle of it all is the relief of stepping in the calmer open square overlooked by the beautiful church and fluttering colourful bunting.
The market is studded with vast indoor food halls, where there’s a system at play to get some food: you pay one woman for some freshly made tortillas, then visit the meat or vegetable stands to buy your fillings, then give those to a person on the charcoal grills to cook for you. We weren’t quite sure how it all worked, so went for the easier option of one of the smaller outside stands.
We had delicious quesadillas with proper stringy, salty Oaxaca cheese, squash blossoms and frijoles for me and chorizo for Josh at 20 pesos / £1 each. The rain started pelting down as we ate, which led to a fun frenzied attempt to get a plastic sheet strung up to shelter under! Luckily like most rain showers here it blow over soon enough.
These cute little tuk-tuks ferry people between Tlacolula and the nearby towns.
We jumped in a ‘colectivo’ cab to take us back to Oaxaca – a local system for a few different parties to share a cab to the same location, which at 20 pesos each is much more cost-effective than a private cab. However Josh and I were both stuffed together into the front seat, not exactly safe or comfortable – but a fun and cheap ride! I’d call a Sunday trip to Tlacolula a must-do if you’re in the area.