There is always a street fair going on somewhere in Mexico, and although these traditional events may seem humble, they are truly fascinating!
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In Mexico, there is always a street fair going on somewhere. In fact, you could attend a different one every week!
However, street fairs are not random events. They are actually the colorful part of a solemn religious celebration.
Every Mexican city, town, neighborhood, and village, no matter how big or small, has a patron saint. In Mexican calendars, you will see the name of a saint marked under each day, so people know when each saint’s feast day is.
Yes, that means there is technically a saint to celebrate for each day of the year.
And since every cathedral, church, parish and chapel in Mexico is dedicated to a particular saint or virgin, it means eventually the local saint’s feast day will come around and it will be time for a solemn religious celebration and a colorful fiesta.
Days before the saint’s feast day, a street fair will be set up in the streets around the chapel or church. This is no small affair, with vendors and artisans selling food, toys, sweets, clothes, textiles, pottery, earthenware, and anything else you can think of.
We took a family road trip to our favorite street fair in the city of Tulancingo in Hidalgo province. My mom was born there, and my sisters and I spent a good part of our childhood with our grandparents in Tulancingo, so that’s why we like to go there. The place is like my second home.
The city’s patron saint is Our Lady of the Angels, and her feast day is on August 2nd. However, the celebrations in Our Lady’s honor begin in late July and end in mid-August. Yes, I know that’s a lot of celebrating.
The street fair around the church is pretty large, spanning several city blocks. The streets are closed to regular traffic and vendors set up their stall to sell their goods. There is Mass held at the church every day, and fireworks at night.
We took a trip there, walked around, bought a lot of really cool things, and let the kids ride on the merry-go-round and the other kiddy rides. It was a fun day.
I love to attend this street fair because there are all sorts of traditional goods which are not usually available anywhere else. I’ll show you what I’m talking about.
Fascinating Things You Can Find in a Mexican Street Fair
What I love most about street fairs is the food. My favorite thing to have there is churros, of course. But I also love Mexican street corn, slathered in mayo and sprinkled with cheese and chili powder.
The street corn here is special because it’s cacahuazintle corn. This kind of corn has large, thick, meaty kernels and it’s normally used to make hominy for pozole. But here, it is steamed, cooked, and sold as a street snack. A real treat for me!
There is also a kind of traditional bread sold only at street fairs, which is made with cinnamon and nuts. This pan de fiesta is one of my favorite treats to enjoy with a cup of hot chocolate or coffee.
Mexican sweets and candy
You can also find traditional Mexican sweets and candy. There are cocadas made with shredded coconut and sugar, dulce de leche, candied figs and sweet potatoes, peanut-honey or amaranth-honey bars, and little cups filled with tamarind-chili paste.
But my family’s favorite treat is jamoncillo. It is made with ground pumpkin seeds and pine nuts, mixed with milk and sugar. My kids always fight over who gets the largest piece. It’s delicious!
Traditional pottery and ceramics
I also love to get at least a couple of pieces of traditional pottery. There are clay pots, cups, plates of every shape and size, decorated with colorful designs. Don’t you just love how they look?
It is tradition to buy a decorated clay cup as a gift for a friend, relative or loved one. You can have that special person’s name painted on it, or can just get one for yourself to enjoy your coffee in.
Textiles and embroidery
The city of Tulancingo and the surrounding area is known for its wool production and cold winter weather, so naturally there are wool blankets, sweaters, hats, mittens, and scarves for sale. At the street fair, you will find woolen goods woven in a traditional loom.
The local indigenous artisans also sell their goods at the fair. The women are especially skilled in embroidery and you can find lovely blouses, dresses, napkins, tablecloths, placemats, and shawls.
Indigenous women are also skilled in beadwork. They make gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, rings, and hair ornaments. These are so beautiful, you could wear them to a formal occasion. It’s amazing what they do!
As you shop through the stalls, you’ll be able to hear the indigenous artisans speak in their native otomi tongue. The city of Tulancingo lies at the foot of lovely forested mountains and there are many indigenous villages there, so the native people usually come down to sell their crops and goods in the city market and the street fair.
Traditional Mexican wooden toys are absolutely lovely. Artisans sell trucks, cars, airplanes, puppets, riding horses, and doll houses. There are cloth dolls and tiny ceramic tea sets. There are colorful xylophones and reed flutes.
To be honest, my children are not into these sort of traditional toys, but I used to play with a few of them when I was little. Every year, my grandmother would buy me a little ceramic tea set for me to play with. Beautiful memories!
There are other native goods you can find at the street fair, like handwoven baskets and gourds for storing water.
My husband found some clay whistles crafted to imitate certain animal sounds. There was an owl whistle, a coyote whistle, and a jaguar whistle. I’ve never heard a real jaguar, but this thing sounded very accurate to me!
When you come to Mexico, don’t limit yourself to the luxurious beach resorts. Try to schedule a trip to at least one of the hundreds of charming cities and towns, like San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca, Puebla, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi or Taxco.
There, you will be able to have a true and meaningful Mexican experience, complete with traditional pottery, embroidery, beadwork, textiles, food, sweets, and native people. This is a part of Mexico everyone should experience.
You won’t regret it!
Which of these items would you buy at a Mexican street fair?