At the entrance to the market, a surreal mural decorates the long corrugated iron façade.
A mural segment depicts a Xochimilco boatman poling his scow through the starry night, heaped with flowers.
Underneath the great steel roof, a hundred or more vendors line a labyrinth of passageways.
The sheer amount of color in the place—dazzling.
An arrangement of red roses and birds-of-paradise stood at least four feet high. I asked the vendor "How much?." His asking price: $600 pesos—about $45 USD.
For the cheapest flowers, shoppers bypass the fancy arrangements and go straight to the growers fresh in from the campo, their trucks heaped with field-grown flowers.
The Mercado de Jamaica is hazardous place for browsers and tourists. People bustle past hauling loads of flowers. I was forever being shooed out of the way.
I never before considered the words "hand truck" and "flowers" might be used in the same sentence. Nor had I thought of flowers as heavy.
Hauling all those flowers is hard work. Plenty of food sellers stand by to fuel the workers. This pan vendor gives me an opportunity to use "hand truck" and "bread" in the same sentence—another first.
Barbecued corn browns over portable wood-burning cookstoves. A huge clay cazuela bubbles with a stew of cut corn, herbs and other vegetables.
The seller, one of many offering this dish, told me it was called esquites. She gave Laura a sample served in a fresh corn husk.
I would like to say it was delicious, but this stuff is the doughy feed corn served throughout Mexico as street food. For my Mexican neighbors it's comfort food. But my gringo palate is conditioned to appreciate the tender sweet corn we get north of the border. To me, esquites taste like corn that was picked too late and left on the supermarket shelf too long.
But people visit Mercado de Jamaica not for the food, but the flowers.
For formal arrangements or simple bunches of roses, for decorating a home or a business, for quinceañeras, birthdays, weddings, or funerals, people scour the corridors, looking for just the right blossoms. I saw many customers, but I couldn't imagine that enough of them could pass through these narrow alleys to buy up the huge stock on offer. Mercado de Jamaica has been in business for many years though. Apparently enough flowers get sold to keep it a going concern.