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The Mercado de Sonora has a for a long time been one of the most successful of traditional markets in Mexico City. Increasingly popular with international visitors, it’s also one of the easier Markets in the Merced district to get in and out of. Southeast of the Centro Histórico, the building opened in the 1950s during the boom in retail and public market building.
Even then, the Mercado de Sonora specialized in merchandise like pottery, party decorations, and live animals. Even more so, the herbal products sold here are primarily related to magic and the occult. It’s said to be known worldwide for the magic and esoteric products related to Santa Muerte and the adoration of San Judas Tadeo.
Within the market, most merchants are grouped by the types of merchandise they sell. This can include cactus and fresh corn from Milpa Alta, pots and soil from Xochimilco, and medicinal herbs from Puebla, Morelos, and Mexico State.
While the most famous vendors are dedicated to herbal products and “botanica,” magic and the occult, they are generally to be found to the rear of the market’s longest nave. For many centuries, traditional Mexican medicine has been strongly linked to religious and magical practices as well as to agriculture.
The variety of medicinal plants sold include avocado leaves for inflammations, chiranthodendron for heart health, jacaranda flowers for the stomach and more. Dried snakes are sold as cancer medications, and dried skunks are intended to “strengthen the blood.” Ocote wood crosses are intended for good luck, chains of garlic may ward off evil, and the eyes of deer are said to protect against the evil eye.
Items related to white and black magic, pre-Hispanic religious traditions, Santería, the cult of Santa Muerte, shamanism and many syncretistic beliefs and practices are all co-mingled. About 2,000 practicioners are said to arrive to the market specifically for these purposes every weekend.
Always one of the traditional city markets for merchandise related to the Day of the Dead celebrations, in part it’s because the earliest alebrijes figures were produced here. The Linares family went onto worldwide fame for their original alebrijes, and their workshop continues to operate just outside the market.
Similarly, the scapegoated Judas figurines, are sold in great quantity, and intended to be burned or otherwise disfigured. As the betrayer of Jesus, it seems only fitting, at least to some dedicated purchasers.