Jardin Juarez and Market Hall

Center of town
Juchitan, Mexico

Submitted by: Ethan Kent

A market and zócalo where women run the show.

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Why It Works

This inseparable square (or zócalo) and market hall--which houses local government offices on the second floor and an open-columned market space on the ground floor--together form the social anchor for the whole city of Juchitan. The market attracts thousands of people every day for a multitude of overlapping purposes, spilling out onto surrounding streets and the adjacent zócalo, which is also the main staging area for weekly dances and all civic events. People usually come to the market with several members of their family and stop frequently to have conversations with people they know. The market employs and incubates hundreds of small businesses and provides more choices and more quality than almost any comparable retail area in the U.S. (certainly more than a Wal-Mart).

Since most people walk to the market from throughout the city, the streets leading to it are also active retail streets. While cars are numerous, traffic moves slowly through most of the streets.

Juchitan still has strong zapotec roots, with many women still wearing the native blouses called huipils. It is a matriarchal society where women own most of the property and conduct most business deals. Gay lifestyles are not only accepted but celebrated. Cross dressing boys dance throughout the markets and are celebrated by straight boys that play music alongside of them. Crowds of people often stop to watch and show their support by dropping money in a can.

The matriarchs must be quite good at business, as Juchitan is one of the wealthiest towns in the region with very little poverty. While most parts of the world are in the process of loosing this kind of local self sufficiency and cultural vibrancy, Juchitan is going strong. Certainly most communities in the world may find little in common with this remote part of Mexico, but the fact that such a robust local culture and economy can flourish anywhere, should be encouragement for all communities to invest in their local cultural identity and small business viability.

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