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El Mercado - San Antonio's Market Square

The history of the past is tied to the color of the present and the excitement of the future in Market Square. The area continues the tradition of the town market as a center for restaurants, shops, vendors, entertainment and festivals.

Located downtown at IH-35 and Commerce Street, Market Square comprises two square blocks of plazas, historically restored and new buildings, and parking areas.

Dating to 1840, the area has continued the town market concept. Today, there are still vendors and mariachis in the plaza. The restaurants offer much more than the chile con carne originally offered by the young ladies known as the "Chili Queens." The shops offer a variety of goods in a range of quality, origin and price. Fiestas happen frequently, and the plazas are alive with music, dancing, entertainment, food and fun.

Market Square offers tacos to treasures, pinatas to pearls, margaritas to mariachis, and continues to attract San Antonians and visitors with the flavor and color of the past retained in the traditions and culture of this city.

The present day market is centered around El Mercado (the market), a large indoor shopping area patterned after an authentic Mexican market. Featuring over 33 specialty shops, El Mercado offers Mexican and South American products, leather goods, the best variety of pinatas in the city, Mexican candy and ice cream, men’s guayaveras, stained glass, brass, and jewelry from costume to fine. Featured are folk art, pottery (Mexican and local), wrought iron, straw products, paper flowers and Mexican dresses. Many of the shops continue the tradition of bargaining for the price of the item, but not all. El Mercado is open daily 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. during the months of September through May and daily from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. the months of June through August.

Outside El Mercado, restaurants, shops, and a first rate art gallery, line the plazas. These shops are usually open later hours than El Mercado and offer similar but different merchandise. The three authentic Mexican food restaurants are a favorite with San Antonians and visitors alike. All restaurants are very moderately priced, and one, which also features a bakery, remains open 24 hours a day. The open-air patios and strolling mariachis add pleasure to the meal and make the restaurants a perfect place to spend a sunny San Antonio afternoon or a starlit evening.

The Farmers Market Plaza, a recently renovated area of Market Square, offers a blend of merchandise that is representative of the cultural, artistic and ethnic influences of Texas and México. Many new shops and cafes add to the fun of shopping at Market Square. Hours for this complex are also 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., daily, September through May, and 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., daily, June through August.

The Centro de Artes del Mercado (Market Square Cultural Center) is also a viable part of this beautiful area. Conferences, meetings, civic and social functions, dance and drama presentations, art exhibits and concerts were all part of the many gatherings in this magnificently restored two-story building built in 1922. In 1998 the Centro Alameda and the Smithsonian Institution have combined to create a museum to showcase traveling exhibits on Latino art, beginning in the fall of 2001.

Market Square offers year-round activities, but the major festivals are scheduled in April, May, September and December. Besides the special party times, Market Square is the scene of excitement and fun throughout the year.

For more information on Market Square, call (210) 207-8600.

Source: The information in this report is provided by the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-ALAMO-07.

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