El Mercado, located within San Antonio’s Market Square shopping district, is considered to be the largest Mexican market in the U.S.
Market Square is a three-block outdoor plaza lined with shops and restaurants in downtown San Antonio, Texas. The “El Mercado” section has 32 specialty shops and the “Farmer’s Market Plaza” section has 80. Market Square is also home to many Hispanic festivals year round, including Cinco de Mayo and and Día de los Muertos in central San Antonio.
In its early years, San Antonio’s plazas were lively marketplaces where vendors sold fresh produce, beef, venison, wild turkeys, honey and pecans. The plaza where Market Square is located today was gifted to the original settlers “for their use and entertainment” by the King of Spain in 1730.
The market moved from San Antonio’s main commercial plaza, Plaza de Armas, to its current location in the 1890s to make room for an influx of new settlers.
By 1900 San Antonio was the largest city in Texas and the fastest-growing. A wave of immigrants from Europe, the Middle East and Asia lent their own unique flavor to the Mexican character of the market, establishing grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies and social clubs.
The “El Mercado” building was built as a Works Progress Administration project during 1938-1939 after the existing municipal market house (known as the Giles building) was torn down. The new building was originally named the “Municipal Truck Market”, but locals commonly called it the “Farmer’s Market”, as farmer’s sold their produce straight from their trucks inside the open air building. In 1975, the last produce was sold there, and the market house underwent renovation to convert it into an enclosed air-conditioned mercado.
Today, San Antonio’s historic Market Square is a bustling and colorful cultural experience that makes it truly one-of-a-kind. Whether you’re shopping for authentic Talavera pottery, handcrafted pieces of art, colorful clothing, or you’re looking to sample the tastes and flavors of Mexican cuisine and fresh produce, just remember one phrase, “¡Llevame a El Mercado!”
Of course, if you’re taking the San Antonio Metro, simply take the red, yellow or green line to Downtown 😉