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El Chopo Punk Market in Mexico City

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El Chopo Punk Market in Mexico City

The El Chopo Punk Market is located near the Buenavisa Metrobus and Subway stop on Aldama street. It is a flea market which functions on Saturdays throughout the year.

MEXICO CITY, Mexico- “I thought this was going to be a bunch of punks selling their old stuff, but this is just Hot Topic in stall form,” my wife adequately compared the El Chopo punk market near the Buenavista metro stop in Mexico City to a trendy “alternative” accessory store in USA shopping malls. We came to the El Chopo punk market to view a slice of a subculture we both claimed for ourselves while growing up in the USA — to make friends, perhaps, talk to people, find out what is brewing in this 40 year old, somewhat global sub-culture — but what we found was more along the lines of what we should have expected: old ideas, worn out politics, icons, symbology, anti-corporate, anti-government jargon and beliefs morphed, repackaged, commercialized.

El Chopo Market photo from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianguis_Cultural_del_Chopo

Even punks need to make money, but what I saw were brokers selling trendy crap — studded belts and bracelets, t-shirts of bands and movies, stickers, patches, a wide selection of tell tale sub-cultural clothing — with only a couple punks milling about on the periphery, selling junk. Make money where you can: the core philosophy of any time. Identifying want is to identify a way to make money — even more so when that want is based in fashion and trend.

We were at a market, a place where products are sold for profit, how could we grumpily digress over commercialism, contradiction, and irony here?

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We couldn’t. I looked around the market seeing people capitalizing on the art and work of others and knew clearly that the person who does not fully capitalize on their product may be the one creating fodder which makes other people money. Bootlegged CDs, DVDs, t-shirts sold by people not visibly identifiable as functioning in any sort of sub-cultural fringe. A lesson that has been fully reflected back at me in the mirror of recent times.

So my wife, daughter, and I walked through the stalls of the punk market, laughed a little at the memory of my younger self that topped off the quick transitions of youth with a spiky mohawk. I reminisced about the fun times I once had wearing home made PVC body armor, provoking riot cops to club me. The years of pretending to be political when I was really just looking for kicks, a feeling of power, self determination, respect, and role. We checked out a couple of good specimens of head and facial tattooing. We bought some gifts for family, friends, ourselves from “punk” merchants who proved to be the most unbending, unhaggling, vendors I ever tied to deal with in Latin America. I outfitted my daughter with Nausea and Doom patches to sew over the Minnie Mouses on her shirts.

There was little — if anything — “punk” about this punk market beyond the brand name applied to the apparel. It was, in fact, one of the more restricted places in Mexico that I have yet been to. No photographs are suppose to be permitted within the market — special permits are needed to take photos. I also saw a kid standing at the edge of the market trying to sell a pair of jeans. He was just standing there silently, holding up his one piece of merchandise when an organizer came over and yelled at him. He sheathed his jeans and beat a quick exit from the market area. In spite of the punk or anarchist labeling of this market, the reality was anything but.

Piercings in El Chopo Market

Piercings at EL Chopo market for six pesos

“Six peso piercings! Six peso piercings!” roared a caller while standing outside of a rickety assembled stall that had — what else? — “6 Peso Perfecciones” written on signs stuck all over it. I watched as a crowd of kids stood in piles around the little opening of the piercing booth — which was really nothing more than a frame of metal bars covered with tarps. These kids were being pierced for less than 50 cents a pop. “You buy the jewelry for 20 pesos and the piercing is 6,” I heard a voice on the inside explaining. I looked inside to find a worn out looking fellow sitting limply with surgical gloves slung over his paws.

“Maybe I should get my clit pierced for 6 pesos,” my wife joked. I encouraged her. Long ago I’ve found a clutch formula for travel writing: doing stupid shit sells. “This is Wade from VagabondJourney.com, I am at the El Chopo Punk Market in Mexico City where my lovely wife, who can be seen spread eagling behind me, is getting her clitoris pierced for 45 cents.” I figured we could at least make our money back.

Punk subculture regenerates

I appreciated the fact that there are still punks being generated from the primordial ooze of youth to replace us old salts as we grow up, have kids, and find that our shifts in ideology and lifestyle are testaments to wisdom earned rather than vigor lost.

I walked by a young kid with a pink mohawk and studded leather coat selling roses in the street outside the market. I could do this, I thought to myself, knowing that I could probably bring in what I earn as a traveling writer selling crap on the Mexico City streets. But what I should have thought was: I use to do this, and it kind of sucks — which is why I began writing in the first place. Sleeping in the attic of a house with twenty occupants who voluntarily disconnected the running water from the toilet in an attempt at saving the planet also kind of sucks — another reason why I found myself slipping away from this subculture many years ago.

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History of the El Chopo Punk Market

Punk market El Chopo in Mexico City

The El Chopo Punk Market, which takes its name from its former location near the Museo Universitario del Chopo, started out as a hippie market in the 60’s. The hippies would gather and sell their books, records, clothes, crap every Saturday. The type of products being sold at this market is still very similar nearly 50 years late, but the style has changed to punk, hardcore, and metal.

El Chopo: different packaging, same market.

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Filed under: Culture and Society, Economics, Mexico, North America

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3053 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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