Central de Abastos, El Centro

We are getting ready to leave México City, planning for a week and a half of car before I must fly out of México for a prior commitment with family. The car will be a big help – we have added many places to the itinerary that lay on the perimeter of México City and are far too difficult to reach with public transportation.

In the last few days, we visited Central de Abastos (the main food distribution market), El Centro neighborhood (on local markets there), and had some exciting book hauls in Narvarte. Alberto describes Central de Abastos and El Centro to be “the guts of the city,” in that you can find anything at gargantuan amounts – enough and more to feed the metropolis.

We visited Central de Abastos, the bulk-buy food market distribution center for the city and other states surrounding, around 2pm – which is already the end of the workday for its workers. Their day starts as early as 5am, where traffic in and out of the campus travels to feed smaller markets and restaurants. The logistical agenda for this market is outstanding – Alberto mentions it is probably that if you order fish at the cost of México, it has already been through Central de Abastos in some way or form.

We got lost there – isles of long warehouses home venders for any vegetable or flower imaginable. We visited structures dedicated to solely oranges, cactus, corn, and more, and only saw a small percentage of the market. Access to the campus via vehicle had a toll, and bathrooms, restaurants, and showers were speckled regularly – marking that not only is this a market, but a world of its own inside México City.

Central de Abastos: Police station in orange warehouse. Photo: A+A
Central de Abastos: Orange cages for the orange warehouse. Photo: A+A
Central de Abastos: orange belt. Photo: A+A
Central de Abastos: garlic only. Photo: A+A
Central de Abastos: watermelon only. Photo: A+A
Central de Abastos: food waste at loading dock. Photo: A+A
Central de Abastos: Alberto at loading dock entry “J”+”K”. Photo: A+A

Organization of venders were capsulated to smaller stalls within each structure, where the quality of food management is dependent on the individual selling. Some venders built beautiful displays (sorting produce by size and color) and others lay produce on the given ground, for example, which had a bed of rot/whatnot coating the span of market. Processing of some foods, such as corn, produces unkempt piles of husks and ears. Other piles of foods, such as herbs and roots, discarded after they could not be sold, are scavenged by customers.

The system is not perfect, but huge portions of the population rely on it to make their livings. I recall my undergraduate capstone at UIC, a visionary city studio directed by Alexander Eisenschmidt. The prompt was based around the relocation of such a market in São Paulo, because its massive vehicle traffic halted mobility in the city. While strategizing, however, it is clear how many the relocation would impact. The Central de Abastos would perhaps impact similarly if it were to be updated/managed differently.

Central de Abastos: empty loading dock. Photo: A+A
Central de Abastos: busy loading dock. Photo: A+A

In El Centro, historic Spanish center of México City, storefronts are categorized per city block and street. A street for only lights, one for musical instruments, one for circuit boards, stationary, any object you need – it’s there. My thoughts were on physically seeing the parts of my projects that relied on ordering online, while Alberto thought of a time that his phone was stolen and his “find my iPhone” app took him to one of the venders at El Centro’s mobile street market.

El Centro: mobile sale only. Photo: A+A
El Centro: lights only. Photo: A+A
El Centro: monitor rackets only. Photo: A+A

We came by a second-hand bookstore where we found a transcript of a Monsanto Earnings Report, a history of the architecture of Teotihucán, and Gilbero Esparza’s artist’s book “Cultivos”. A good haul, but we’re running out of luggage space.

Excerpt from Non-Linear History, Alberto Happy. Photo: A+A
Monsanto Earnings Report Transcript, literature or art? Photo: A+A

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