By Paola Feregrino
A little over two years ago, I had the dream of creating a Mexican Christmas Market in the heart of London. I love Christmas Markets so it occurred to me that we could have our own version selling beautiful Mexican arts, crafts and lots more our culture has to offer, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to celebrate Mexico as well as give small Mexican business owners a new opportunity to trade, showcase their products and gain exposure and confidence.
I spoke to celebrated Mexican restaurant El Pastor
about my idea, as I thought the newly site that had just opened at Coal Drops Yard
was the perfect space to host such event, having a big plaza
for people to gather in the open-air, just like we gather in Mexican squares, to eat, to shop and to ‘cotorrear’
with friends and family. Luckily Coal Drops yard and El Pastor liked the idea, so I cracked on trying to find traders to sell their products there.
Back in 2019, it wasn’t easy to get many traders, and I managed to gather 12, some of them had been selling online (Etsy and Instagram) and for most, it was their first time selling face to face, other business owners the first time they took the business to a market, it was the perfect place to promote their products to Mexico lovers. (If you wonder why Inkas Crafts who sell gorgeous Peruvian arts, are always at our markets, I must mention its because Juan, was the make or break for the very first market, if he hadn’t signed up, I wouldn’t had been able to make the market happen, him being the most professional of all, has helped our other entrepreneurs cherish with their set up and advised countless times about trading at markets, because of this, Inkas Crafts will always be welcome at the Mexican Markets.)
The 2019 market, was an experiment, we didn’t know what was going to happen, we had Mexican duo Las Guadalupes serenading us, and of course we had to have a piñata (Mexican Christmas always features a piñata!) My hats off to Coal Drops Yard for trusting me to manage such a thing! I always chuckle when I write a Health and Safetly form about the piñata moment, this is why if you see me with the children, you understand I am so careful not to have anyone within the stick range.
The market came and what was our surprise, lots of people came to shop with us, locals, families and Mexicans, couldn’t have gone better, the feedback: more stalls, people wanted more. Extremely satisfied we started planning the following year’s which in the end could not happen.
In high spirits, this year, CDY and El Pastor hosted our Mexican Independence Day Market and we came back with the second Christmas Market, and you know what, we even had a waiting list of traders to take part. The Covid-Crisis has seen in our community a boom of businesses operating from home, not only items being brought from Mexico carefully curated, but also many (mainly Mexican women) creating crafts, clothes and of course Mexican street food or sweet treats themselves. We have held networking events for them in the past and have now seen how empowered this little brands are in the UK and how high they put Mexico in the UK. There is even a lovely British couple working with Mexican basket makers bringing fair-trade baskets to the UK (and they are stunning).
The market traders are full of stories, everyone with a passion behind what they do, from blouses and dresses their family make back in Mexico, to carefully selected crafts to handmade head pieces, Mexican silver and crochet figures. There is a gift for everyone from our traders, who have now created a community that doesn’t compete between them, but who help each other grow, exchange experiences and share one thing in common: their passion for Mexico, I think you really see it reflected in the markets.
And how do I feel? I feel proud and happy to see familiar faces at each market, the British families eagerly awaiting the piñata, the Guatemalan young guy who approached me to thank me becuase this was the closest he could get to his own culture, and the Mexican mums showing their small children the mariachi and the dancers, a piece of their identity, some of them had never seen it before, because of pandemic, seeing them try a tamarind sweet for the first time and the parents meeting old friends there, creating a meeting point for Mexico lovers has been one of the most rewarding gifts this has giving me.
I hope that this market becomes a yearly event, I look forward to giving more new businesses the opportunity and new performers the chance to show our culture to the locals, a heartfelt thank you to El Pastor and Coal Drops Yard absolutely everything and of course you who may be reading this and who come to the markets looking for a little bit of you. I feel very lucky that with Omicron and all that jazz we were able to hold the market and give so many people their little dose of Mexico (even on a rainy cold day!)
See you at the next one!
See the market gallery here.