Despite the name of this article, I do not claim to know the ins and outs of the Spanish Mercados. In fact, this story is precisely the opposite and is more of an advice column for anyone daring enough to venture into this cut-throat shopping scene.
So, it was Saturday morning and I was halfway out the door; I was attempting to tell my host mom that I was headed to the mall to buy some shoes (and if you could see how well these Spanish woman dress, you would have understood my urgency). But Encarni, my lovely host mother, pulled me back into the apartment and down the hall ridiculing “no, no, no” along with other Andalusian Castellano phrases that were too quick for me to grasp. I was 99.9% sure I was about to get yelled at, but to my amazement she opens up a closet, her shoe closet, which was around 8 rows tall and six pairs wide. She told me that she got all of her most comfortable yet cheap shoes at the Market on Sundays, and that she would take me tomorrow. So I did end up having to wait one more day with my ratty white-turned-brown sneakers, but it was well worth it.
We drove ten minutes out of the city center and I could have sworn we were approaching a bustling neighboring city. Every possible type of vendor had set up a tent, from strawberries to sunglasses, including six different vendors with woman’s shoes for as little as 5 Euro. I have never been more overwhelmed on a shopping trip in my existence, and I repeatedly lost my host mom, her sister, and my roommate in the masses. Each salesman and woman hollered like an auctioneer in the movies, competing for air time to voice their incredible deals. The shoe vendors had one large table with a mountain of stilettos, booties, and sneakers, and not a single pair was together. I had to rummage through the pile to find a shoe I liked, make sure it was in my size (which was the toughest part considering the petite median height of the Spanish population), and then find its counterpart.
The whole endeavor reminded me of a game I played in grade school, where my classmates and I would put our shoes in a large pile in the middle of the gym floor and mix them up. We would then line up along the edges of the gym and race to see who could find their pair and tie the laces first. Well, that is pretty much my mercado experience summed up,but with much higher stakes. You would be glad to know that I came out with two pairs of shoes and 30 euros of other things that I am not certain I really need. But don’t worry, I will be back, and I next time I will be more prepared to dig for treasure.
The world awaits…discover it.