Bazaar Economy on the Puente del Papa (Pope’s Bridge). Monterrey

Efrén Sandoval Hernández

Efrén Sandoval Hernández is a research professor at the Northeastern Headquarters of the ciesas (Monterrey). He is a member of the National System of Researchers level 1. His work deals with "border economies" in the region of northeastern Mexico and South Texas. His most recent publication is (2020) "Winning 'clients' and managing favors. Union delegates in Monterrey tianguis", Sociological studies, 40 (118). In 2019 he coordinated (together with Martin Rosenfeld and Michel Peraldi) the book. The northern or southern hemisphere. Global production, cross-border trade and informal markets of used clothing. (Paris: Éditions Pétra / imera / ehess). He has been a professor in different national institutions, and has received funding for his research from national and international institutions.

orcid: 0000-0002-2706-9388

Photo 1

In the absence of an umbrella canopy

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

This merchant combines the sale of tools, installed on a tarpaulin, with used shoes for men and women, pirate records and costume jewelry, the latter on a folding table. The figure of a virgin is also part of the objects for sale. In the background, several of the emblematic buildings of downtown Monterrey. Below, the busy Morones Prieto Avenue.

Photo 2

For lack of awning a piece of tarpaulin

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

The strong August heat did not prevent this elderly man from settling in that Saturday. On the bridge, shade is a scarce resource that must be obtained and preserved throughout the day. This particular merchant also sought shade for his merchandise (pieces, spare parts, used tools), as if they were delicate or luxury items.

Photo 3

A little piece of shadow

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

The three men on the left take advantage of the shadow of one of the suspenders on the Pope Bridge. The photo was taken in the morning. In the afternoon, the installation would be done at the other end, depending on the shadow coming from the west. Meanwhile, a couple walks on the bridge. The merchants have cleared the way for pedestrians, as if respecting the municipal regulations.

Photo 4

Exhibition of goods on diablito and fabric

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Loose cigarettes, lighters, alkaline batteries, chewing gum, candy and used tools. Everything fits in a backpack and a box. When the sale day is over, the box containing the goods will be covered with a piece of sponge, a cloth, and tied with a rope. Wandering, setting up and taking down, appearing and disappearing, are part of the routine of these eternally intermittent merchants.

Photo 5

Exhibition of goods on the Pope's Bridge

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Several of the merchants stock up on trinkets in the very center of the city. To do so, they go to the commercial area of Colegio Civil, where they stock up on "chácharas" with the wholesalers who in turn stock up on merchandise in Tepito and the Sonora market (Mexico City). Normally, these cheap, disposable and leftover goods were manufactured in China or some other Asian country, traveled by ship to Manzanillo, were distributed in Mexico City and from there moved to Monterrey.

Photo 6


Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Recovered objects (including feathers), finds (a connector) and "opportunities" (a "found" watch), abound on the Pope's bridge. In some cases, like this one, the seller doesn't necessarily know what some of the objects for sale are for; or doesn't know if they still work.

Photo 7

Diablito, merchandise and hotelazo

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

In the background, the downtown hotel zone; the Acero building (Monterrey's first "skyscraper"); and the Liverpool department store. While there are few passersby on the bridge, traffic is heavy on Constitución Avenue, one of the most important avenues in the capital of Nuevo León. The land under the bridge is the bed of the Santa Catarina River.

Photo 8

Diablito, bridge and sphere

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

A sphere-shaped building is part of the Pavilion M complex. The man who set up his stall here told us that he did not know what was (or would be) inside this "ball". It actually houses an auditorium that, according to its promoters, has the best acoustic installation in the city. Most likely, the value of all the merchandise that this merchant was offering that day would not be enough to pay for a ticket to any of the shows that are presented in that auditorium.

Photo 9


Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

One person stopped to look at the merchandise in this place. He is a resident of Colonia Independencia, Monterrey's most emblematic neighborhood, located at the south end of the Pope Bridge. He told us he had not yet visited Pabellón M., his new neighbor on the other side of the bridge.

Photo 10

The global city and the city from below

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

It was difficult to take this picture. We had to crawl on the ground to get it. There is a lot of distance between the height of the building and the ground where the bazaar economy takes place.

Photo 11


Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

As the morning progresses, more people pass by. Some of the curious come from other social and geographic sectors of the city. Many are regular visitors.

Photo 12

Single commodities

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Almost everything here has a flaw. Many things don't work and some things may. The variety is infinite. It's difficult to establish extremes: from a (kitchen) pot holder to the cover of a car stereo, from a telephone to a cervical corallin, used.

Photo 13

Wonderful articles

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

One of these plastic boxes was mine. In it I once brought jewelry to offer in exchange for a few pesos. After evaluating what I had brought, the merchant bought the "lot" from me for $50. I later learned that the boxes are sold separately because they serve as showcases in the bazaar's economy.

Photo 14

A form of order

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Several merchants in this sector are accustomed to rummaging through the garbage in the "rich neighborhoods". There they find many of the objects they sell. Most of these cables, connectors and video game controllers come from there, they had been discarded and here they have found a second life, they have recovered their quality of merchandise, hoping one day to be objects of use again.

Photo 15

Parallel order

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

The trade in used and discarded goods also serves to prolong the activity within a trade. Some traders have been factory workers or have worked in highly specialized trades, and use their knowledge to repair and even assemble tools. They are true specialists who are called upon to repair a device and thus escape from the consumption of tools that "no longer last as long as they used to".

Photo 16

Beta and vhs

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

One day I understood that the trader who sells this is not used to watch TV or movies, he does not usually talk on the phone and only listens to the music around him. He doesn't need anything of what he sells.

Photo 17

From one market to another

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Several merchants in and around the Pope Bridge visit some other markets in search of bargains. Shoes are usually a good find in that regard. One merchant explained to me that, in other neighborhoods, there are many people who work with "the rich families". They give them things as gifts and then sell them at the tianguis in their neighborhood, but since they are not merchants, they don't know how to sell them at a good price, so what had one price there, has another here. Shoes are some of the few items that people tend to spend a little more money on around the Pope's bridge.

Photo 18


Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

I had a hard time getting to talk to him. He is a man of few words, but kind. He spends all day at his place of business. Several fellow vendors have passed away over the years, but he is still there, always there, sitting on a bucket, on an old rocking chair, on a bench improvised with a plank. I haven't been able to figure out when he started rummaging through the garbage to get what he sells.

Photo 19

Analog readout

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

 Cars often speed by on Morones Prieto Avenue. The noise is quite a lot. It is hard to think about concentrating on reading, but this is what this man who repairs tools and sells a little bit of everything does. In the background, above, the Pope's bridge.

Photo 20

To be someone

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

With "el profe" I talked about music, literature, history and politics. He loves to talk about the history of the Independencia neighborhood, which houses these stores and where he grew up. I never saw anyone buy a book from him, I always thought this was more like his personal library.

Photo 21

Like new

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

At the sale in the area around the Pope's bridge, the order is rather strange. More than the good condition of everything that is sold here, which in itself is exceptional, I was struck by the pretension of order with which the seller installed the goods.

Photo 22

All for sale

Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Occasionally, individuals come to this place offering goods for the merchants. These, stealthy, not only evaluate the goods but also the person who brings them. This is because, sometimes, it is a trap. The deception is not in the illegal origin of the goods, but in the complicity of the police. The merchants explained to me that after buying merchandise from someone who suddenly arrives to offer it, they usually receive a visit from police officers who arrive to investigate the supposed theft of those items. They do not arrive there thanks to their efficient investigations, nor do they come to arrest the person who bought the stolen merchandise, but rather it is an extortion under the threat of taking the person who bought the stolen merchandise into custody, in an action of obvious collusion with the person who came to offer the goods.

Photo 23


Iván E. García. Monterrey, N.L., 2016.

Ricardo, the merchant who sells this, has a degree in public accounting. Skilled in commerce, he has gone from selling VHS movies to selling cell phones and now knives. This display case has served him for years, and he transports it with great care. He is one of the few merchants who offers his merchandise in a display case. He explained to me that if the goods are on the floor, they have one price, if they are on a table, they have another, but if they are in a display case, the customer understands that he is buying a better quality item.

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