It’s 2 p.m., and the Lomas Verdes bazaar is bracing for the lunchtime rush. “Gatherings in cars are strictly prohibited in the bazaar parking lot,” warns a sign in bright lettering. Beneath it, a group of young women brazenly discuss their day’s exploits, leaning on their Jeep. Doors open, music blaring, they gesture with liter cups of micheladas — a concoction of beer and spiced sauces, rimmed with a goopy hot sauce — in hand.
The bazaar is an institution. People come to buy clothing, eat, and pre-drink, but above all, they come because it’s the best place for technology in Greater Mexico City. On weekends, so many cars line up to enter that the massive road outside grinds to a standstill.
“I’ve had people come here from Querétaro,” Israel García, a computer repair technician, told Rest of World, referring to the capital city of a not-so-neighboring state two and a half hours’ drive away.
Sprawling at a junction, the bazaar brings everyone from working-class tech enthusiasts to the gadget-obsessed middle classes of Satélite and the wealthy of Polanco in their Porsches. Inside, vendors advertise their technical wizardry: repairs for iPhones that the Apple Store might consider hopeless cases, or offers to turn any old laptop into a high-performance machine with “una tuneada.” (“Downtown, they’ll charge you 60% less, but the quality is bad,” said García.) Some sellers specialize in gadgets — anything from drones to gaming controllers; others still hawk pirated DVDs.
The stalls look disheveled and disorganized, as if long past their best days. This isn’t a bad thing. Mexico’s customers expect that the savviest deals will be discovered, not advertised — especially if they’re legally ambiguous.
The irregular nature of the place can boil over. In January, several stalls went up in flames because of a short circuit (many in the bazaar tap into the electricity grid illegally); more recently, local police and stall owners clashed over foreclosures. When the bazaar went dark after Covid-19 restrictions caused a months-long shutdown, its workers continued to do sales and repair work from home, capitalizing on the rest of the city’s sudden dependence on technology to stay connected. Many were able to stay afloat, even profit.
García used the time to do five online certifications for other kinds of repair, each costing 10,000 pesos (just under $500). He says he made the money back in no time, “sin broncas” (with no trouble). As he speaks, he welds a tiny circuit board next to a worn-out 10-peso coin to conduct excess heat. When the bazaar was allowed to reopen in October 2021, people largely returned to their stalls.
The sun is setting over the nearby hills, and Jesús “Chucho” Escalera’s shift at the bazaar is almost over. The money he made over the pandemic was enough for him to buy two plots of sugarcane fields in the eastern state of Veracruz. In his 40s, the bazaar has given him more than enough to retire in the countryside, he tells Rest of World.
“This place will remain, though,” Escalera says.