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THE TIANGUIS: A Mesoamerican Legacy



Monday in Chapala, Wednesday in Ajijic, Thursday in Jocotepec, the tianguis, or open street market, is a familiar weekly event at Lakeside. But did you ever wonder why these enterprising merchants and vendors get up so early and work so hard to set up their booths and displays for only a few hours one day of the week?

Business, of course. A social event, to be sure; a place to meet friends and neighbors and pass the time of day. But the tianguis is much more than that. Its roots go back to classical Aztec times and beyond to other peoples of ancient Mesoamerica.

The term Mesoamerica refers to a large cultural area extending from Tamaulipas, Mexico in the north to central Honduras and Costa Rica in the south. It is characterized by certain common cultural traditions and features, some of which go back as far as 2,000 B.C. One of the most important of these cultural traits was the “tianguis”, which in Nahuatl means “marketplace.” By extension this came to mean the buying and selling of goods on a fixed day of the week.

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