Stories behind a market


Opened in 1935, the Abelardo Rodríguez market is named after a nearly-forgotten man who served as president of Mexico for two years (and was really a puppet for Plutarco Elías Calles, a former president who remained the power behind the throne).

What little I know about Rodríguez sounds like the stuff of a novel. From the northern state of Sonora, he did not even finish primary school. He worked as a miner, in a hardware store, and as a baseball player before joining up with the Mexican Revolution. His most significant legacy was to lengthen the presidential term from four to six years, even though two were plenty for him.

The market, in the centro on the corner of calles Venezuela and Rodríguez Puebla, is one of the few left in Mexico City that was built before World War II. Some of its walls and ceilings are decorated with Socialist themed murals painted by various young artists who studied under Diego Rivera, including Antonio Pujol, Pablo O'Higgins, Marion Greenwood and Isamu Noguchi.

Noguchi had already established himself in New York and Paris before coming to Mexico, and while working with Rivera, would have a passionate affair with Rivera's wife, Frida Kahlo. His mural is on the upper floor of the market, which was closed at my last visit. Sadly, all the art work has decayed with the passage of the decades, but a process of restoration is in progress.