La Lagunilla Market is a traditional public market in Mexico City, located about ten blocks north of the city’s main plaza, in a neighbourhood called La Lagunilla. The market is one of the largest in the city and consists of three sections: one for clothing, one for furniture and one for foodstuffs, mostly selling to low-income customers.
The market is located next to the Santa Catarina Church. The nearby plaza was the site of the area’s main outdoor market or tianguis, through the colonial period to the late 19th century. Other landmarks in the vicinity include the Guelatao Sports Centre, and Plaza Garibaldi just to the west, known for its mariachis.
The area is a lower socioeconomic one, a fact that is reflected by the market’s clientele. The neighbourhood has a reputation as dangerous, but the market area is considered to be safe enough if visitors take basic precautions. La Lagunilla Market is always very crowded and very lively, especially the areas that sell food, clothing and other everyday items.
About 2,000 families depend on this market directly or indirectly, but it faces pressure from commercial plazas and from mass-produced items. Many of the vendors are third-generation merchants earning their living at the market, but many have been forced to change the merchandise they sell or complement their traditional wares in order to stay in business.
Although the fixed market is surrounded by street vendors every day, on Sundays the streets are even more crowded with people selling all kind of things. This event is called the tianguis day or mercado de pulgas (flea market), because it is based on the tradition of selling second-hand items, which are called “baratillos” (little cheap ones).
There are thousands of baratillo markets in Mexico City but the best known are Tepito, Santa Cruz Meyehualco, Santa Martha Acatitla and San Felipe de Jesús, along with La Lagunilla. There is a popular saying in Mexico City that in these markets “one can gather the pieces needed to build a helicopter.” Baratillos consist of a multitude of vendors selling parts of automobiles, televisions, bicycles, radios, computers, refrigerators, toys, stoves, clothes, shoes, chips, hens, turkeys, fighting cocks in various colours and more.
The La Lagunilla market was established and named after the La Lagunilla neighborhood, just outside the historic center of Mexico City. In the pre Hispanic era, this land was a small lagoon, which connected to the larger Lake Texcoco. Efforts to control flooding led to most of the lake being drained, leaving a much smaller Lake Texcoco west of the city, surrounded by salt marsh.