Inventorying the Mercado by
Color & Odor
By 9:45 the unrelenting confusion and noise catalyze a curious emotional state in me; I start feeling detached, like a shimmering, sovereign eyeball gliding unseen through a surreal landscape. Suddenly it strikes me that the mercado is music and all the things in it are tones, and that the tones cluster in every key and every mode, and not much in harmony with one another. Yet, the mercado's overall rhythm, its pulse, is the same everywhere, lusty, full of life, somehow cheerful and hopeful, and I'm part of it. The mercado's colors begin exploding inside my head like effervescing bubbles. Now I wander aimlessly, and here's what I see:

  • stacked soda bottles, luminescently red or orange inside
  • deep green blades of spring onions heaped on a red sheet of plastic
  • rusty red chicken bodies roasting on a grill
  • clear-plastic bottles of yellow safflower oil
  • yellow bananas with black bruise-spots
  • Volkswagen-beetle taxis painted green and white, with square, purple information boxes on white doors
  • yellow and orange plastic tarpaulins over sidewalks
  • orange carrots in gray-brown wooden crates
  • green and orange papayas on a table below a red tarpaulin
  • orange squash blossoms bound with green grass blades
  • green and yellow watermelons, one cut open shockingly red and wet inside, glistening in the sunlight
  • burgundy hued mangos
  • yellow and white blocks of cheese stacked on shelves
  • rusty red links of sausage draped on a black wire
  • half a pig, flesh red with white fat, on hooks
  • pale orange tostadas in clear plastic bags
  • inside the Merced, hundreds of piƱatas of every color suspended from timbers above the stalls
  • a dayglow-orange sign with black hand-lettering reading Macizo de Res 18 kg
  • skin tones of naked women on magazine covers at street-corner kiosks, the eye irresistibly drawn to black pubic hair
  • red blanket beneath dozens of rainbow-colored trinkets from Oaxaca
  • three-foot-tall clear-plastic bags of yellow-orange cheese curls stacked seven feet high
  • inside a semi-truck's cargo area, its back doors open, shiny red, white, and blue aluminum cans of Pepsi Cola stacked to the ceiling
  • dozens of crates of blood-red tomatoes along sidewalk
  • 10:00 AM

    At 10:00 I shift to nose-walking; I go to the middle of the cavernous, new, modern-looking, mostly empty Plaza Comercial, standing next to the main Merced building. Here the odor of bare concrete and steel mingles with echoic house-sparrow chirps from high in the metal rafters. Now I walk sniffing toward the main Merced building, and this is what comes to me: