January 9, 2009

Markets, commerce, buying stuff here and there...

In the spirit of Brian Ulrich's work, which I wrote about in my last post, I took the above photograph today at the local megastore (Costco). I was sitting there with Veronica, my fiance, thinking about the market system that these kinds of stores are a part of, and how they contrast with the large regional markets like the one we went to last summer in Tlacolula, Oaxaca:

The above photo was found here. I have been through this HUGE market several times in the last couple of years. Every Sunday vendors, artisans, and buyers from all of the surrounding pueblos in Oaxaca come together to create this sprawling mercado. People sell everything from locally-produced artisan goods (such as ceramic, rugs, and textiles) to bootlegged dvd's, fresh fruit, tools, small appliances, and cheap plastic products from around the world. The market is easy to get lost in, and can take hours to wander through. Here is a short excerpt from Curt Rosengren's short essay about this market:
The market stretches for blocks along Tlacolula’s main thoroughfare, spilling off onto the side streets as it wraps itself around the Capilla del Santo Cristo. This 16th century church was one of the endless network of mission churches the Spanish began building shortly after their arrival in 1532. The unmistakable domed, twin-tower profile of these grand landmarks are a defining characteristic of the Mexican countryside; even tiny villages are graced with beautiful churches dating back hundreds of years.
One of Veronica's favorite parts about traveling is visiting different markets--we went to several in Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo these past two years. And here are a few photos that she took at markets in Guatemala (the one in the middle is from San Miguel Totonicapan, the other two are from Santiago Atitlan):

So there I was at Costco thinking about markets. There are obvious differences between places like Costco and markets found in Oaxaca and Guatemala--or our local farmer's market here in Oceanside, CA, for that matter. And, of course, there are supermercados in Oaxaca and other places that are spreading a certain system/style throughout the world. The differences are often glaring. But there are also similarities--markets are meeting places, where buyers and sellers come together to exchange currencies and products. I think that it's important to consider these similarities, and how consumers use markets in different ways.


Martyn said...

I would be curious whether these informal markets develop patterns of layout. If you have been to a Costco or WalMart you have been to all of them since they are laid out similarly. Perhaps there is a similar layout pattern to informal markets? Driven not by over design but habit and ease? Or maybe there is no layout.. Interesting comparison!

R.A. said...

well, the market in Tlacolula is laid out around the way that the town was designed--so it follows the streets of the town and also surrounds the central plaza. so the layout in some cases is limited or constrained by how these towns were built a long time ago...as far as i can tell. but it would be interesting to talk with more people about how markets like this are set up, how placements of different sellers are decided, etc.

thanks for stopping by.

Ben Hernandez said...

It seems like lay-outs for our modern "giant" markets are only bound by how much earth, wildlife, housing happens to be in the way, and then it isn't binding at all. Just roll out the bulldozers and demolition crews--done, now there's plenty of space to erect this monolith. And then heaven forbid, if the company goes out of business, leaving this giant mason block structure empty in a space that could have been left alone in the first place, for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. Look at HWY 78. There's a Walmart located at every other exit along that route from Oceanside to Escondido.

R.A. said...

ya ben, maybe someday the markets will be so huge that we all live inside them. and imagine the convenience!