Few places in Mexico City tell the story of “alternative” culture in the city like the Mercado del Chopo does. The market was born in the early eighties, during an alternative rock festival hosted by the Museo del Chopo. Legend tells that the festival, and especially the market, had such a success that the museum decided to extend the permission for the market one more week. For many, the little, improvised market was an opportunity to learn about new music, innovative rythms, and meet people with the same interests. Also, the market was a place where it was allowed to exchange items, meaning that if you were a teenager with no money, you would be totally able to negotiate and maybe, have that cassette or that record you wanted so much. Those were the romantic eighties: a time when the internet didn’t exist and getting underground music was a big adventure.
After those two weeks, the market proved to be strong enough to survive by moving to another street, very close to the museum. The appearance of the audience and rumours about the marketing of drugs were enough reason to send the police to kick out the vendors off the street. Yet, sellers and buyers moved from one street to another, until they ended up on Aldama street, in the Colonia Guerrero, close to the now disappeared Buenavista train station. In this location, the market became the place where new groups can reach out audiences interested in new music and new styles, not only because they can sell their records here, but also because the street also works as an open stage that attracts all kind of audiences.
During the nineties and later on, the Mercado del Chopo was a great place where you could find Rock en Español, a pure musical movement that in those years was also know as “Musica en tu idioma” (Music in your own language). For those familiar with Mexican rock and pop, groups like Café Tacuba and Maldita Vecindad found in this market a place and support to create an important music scene entirely in Spanish.
In spite of the great job done by the organization in charge of keeping the market alive, the Mercado del Chopo faces criticism from purists and what a friend of mine calls the “forevers”, referring to the old guys who are stocked in the past and want everything to stay the way it is, who say that the market is now under the “evil” hands of teenagers interested only in fashion or commercial music. Maybe part of this is true since most of the stalls in the market sell merchandise, and exchange can be found only in the very last section of the marketplace, at the end of the street: the Espacio Anarco Punk, where some people sell and/or exchange CD’s, records, videocassettes, cassetes, DVD’s, and books. But music is fashion, and it always needs refreshing airs to keep itself alive. Also, the Mercado del Chopo has been able to adapt itself to the swirling changes of the industry—which includes using the internet as a tool to gather and keep a community together: for example, you can listen their radio station by clicking here, and after thirty years, it is still fascinating to walk on this street to watch young people showing off their best clothes and their great make-up.
Mercado del Chopo, Aldama street, between Sol and Luna streets. Saturday, from 11 to 4 hrs. Revolución Metro Station and Buenavista Metrobús Station