EDITOR NOTE: The region here is not San Diego, and it's not Tijuana. The border area should essentially be called "San Diego Tijuana." Completely interchangeable with bilingual cross-border commuters and families. We share so much history, language and culture that it's easy to find ways to connect to our roots, no matter which side you are on.
What started as a journey to learn about her own culture, took San Diegan Nallely Verduzco to start her own business and then evolved to a project where she helps to promote other Latino small entrepreneurs. Twice a month, she organizes El Mercado, a pop-up market event that gathers 35 Latino businesses under the same roof, embracing Mexican culture. And the plan is to keep growing.
Verduzco said that her mother is Mexican, but for many years Tijuana was the only Mexican town she knew. As an adult, she traveled to a wedding in Chiapas and immediately fell in love with crafts and artisanal products. After that, she visited many towns in Southern Mexico and connected directly with the artisans.
“It was a great inspiration, that’s how Movimiento Xicano (her business) was born. I am American, but I want to promote my culture, I know that here in San Diego we have Barrio Logan, but I wanted to stand out from Barrio Logan. … I thought, what if we start to spread a bit of our culture?” she said.
She said she first brought 10 handmade sandals or “huaraches” after visiting Chiapas in 2016, and soon, she ordered them by hundreds. She launched her online store that year, adding more products to her catalog.
In 2017, Verduzco organized her first El Mercado, with other 20 vendors in National City. The event was a success, but at the time, she was also working as a paralegal assistant, and she couldn’t find the time to keep running the project.
It was in 2020, when Verduzco relaunched the idea of a Mexican traditional market or “mercado” (also called “sobreruedas” in Tijuana), with other few vendors at a small bar in Chula Vista. The effort only lasted a couple of times after COVID closed all public gatherings. “Those were hard months because a lot of them (vendors) depend on their sales,” she said.
Once the events were allowed, El Mercado was back, with a bigger location in Old Town and gathering 35 vendors, selling food, coffee, handmade soaps, desserts, sweets, aromatic oils, herbs, fashion, and more.
One of the vendors is Nury Castro, with Dulce Pecado, Spanish for sweet sin, where she sells sweet-and-sour candies and dried fruit with her own combination of chili powder and “chamoy” sauce. She said that she has been on other pop-up events in town, but that El Mercado is simply her favorite.
“(El Mercado) it is unique. The atmosphere, the people, they are totally Latino, and you feel that”, Castro said.
Verduzco said that most of El Mercado vendors are starting their own business, have little or no experience on pop-up events, or have been rejected by other bigger events where they are asked certain requirements.
“I don’t think we have ever rejected a business”, she said. Now her plan is to find a bigger location to accommodate more vendors and keep up with her mission: create a space where vendors feel comfortable, empowered, and recognized.
“We do not want to generate the economy with large companies but to support local vendors, that’s our goal”, she said.
The next El Mercado events will be held on Sunday, September 12 and September 26, from 1 to 5 p.m. at FEMX Quarters, 1919 San Diego Avenue. The events are free, family and pet-friendly. There is a fee for vendors to participate. Vendors can find more details here.
Originally Published on: PACIFIC