Santa Cruz’s Market of Our Lady of Africa

Sat, March 10th, 2012 - By Linda

Long before I came to live in the Canary Islands I holidayed on the Costa del Sol on mainland Spain, specifically in Puerto Banus, where I spent Saturday mornings browsing the market for spices which conjured up the aromas of Africa, not that far away as the crow flies. I was surprised, then, immigrating to Tenerife over 20 years ago, that similar markets didn’t pop up overnight in the towns I was getting to know here.

Although Farmers’ Markets now sell the freshly-picked, natural veggies we crave, spices are still generally only available in supermarkets – unless you visit Santa Cruz, where you can buy them by the bucketful or thimbleful, according to your needs, in the Market of Our Lady of Africa (Mercado de Nuestra Señora de Africa).

Even from the outside, this huge market looks colourful. It’s stood on its present site, still within easy walking distance from Plaza de España, since 1943, when it outgrew its location closer to the city centre.

Taking some friends on a whistle-stop tour of the island’s capital this was one of the places I chose to go to give them a taste of “real” life. It has the advantage of having a café in its centre where great coffee is served by genial waiters, and a small kiddies’ playground, which delighted the two-year-old with us.

 The real joy of the market is in its smells and its colours I think, apart from spices, kaleidoscopic mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables tempt the senses, some of them familiar like the famous local bananas from the slopes around Puerto de la Cruz or near Los Gigantes, or potatoes from the terraces of Vilaflor, and others more exotic, like mangoes and chirimoyas. The smell of fresh bread fills the nostrils as you pass stalls laden with crusty loaves. The fish section is, happily for your sense of smell, kept well away from the main part of the market!

 

My favourite time to go is around Christmas, when all the stalls have twinkly decorations, and the walls of the butcher’s shops are smothered in post-its, recording orders for the festive season; and the bars around the area are heavy with the greasy smell of Serrano Hams hanging over their counters. It’s a good place to do a bit of gift-buying too, with artisan honey, home-made local sauces, and my favourite goats’ cheeses from the islands of La Palma and Fuerteventura as well as Tenerife.

Outside the produce market you will find the kind of stalls we see all over Europe, selling cottons from Thailand, leather from Morocco or, simply pots and pans. However, on a Sunday this transforms into a huge street market, encompassing several surrounding streets, and among the usual goods you will find bookstalls, both second-hand and new, silversmiths who work on pieces as they wait for custom and a rapidly-growing antiques section, often with gems which we would call “Victoriana,” harking back to times when Tenerife was a stopping point for the rich on their world tour.

Sunday is good for parking in Santa Cruz too. Although there is an excellent bus service from the south, and the bus station is a short walk from the market, if you stock up on fresh produce, well, the car might be a better option!

Posted : Saturday, March 10th, 2012 at 10:19 am
Category : food and drink
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2 Responses to “Santa Cruz’s Market of Our Lady of Africa”

  1. […] the freshest choices and greatest variety, head to one of the farmers’ markets such as The African Market in Santa Cruz, Plaza Del Cristo in La Laguna, Mercado Municipal in Puerto de la Cruz, La Orotava, […]

  2. […] Market of Nuestra Señora de Africa for sure, to buy the best of the island’s produce bananas, tomatoes, papaya and other fruit, […]

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