San Antonio’s Historic Market Square: A celebration of Mexican culture and cuisine

rainy reflections at The  Historic Market Square in San Antonio © Aleney de Winter

We dive into San Antonio’s Historic Market Square and its irrististable collision of Mexican culture, artisanal treasures and mouthwatering eats

The Texas sky opens up without warning. Cursing my luck and lack of an umbrella, I leap out of the cab, fat raindrops smacking my head as I dive for refuge under the nearest awning at San Antonio’s Historic Market Square. As the rain eases, I tentatively head further into the market, the colourful fiesta flags that crisscross the market reflected in a kaleidoscope of puddles on the ground.

I reach the Farmers Market Shops & Cafes, a food court of sorts where, between stores selling brightly hued t-shirts and trinkets, my gaze falls upon a woman expertly crafting fresh tortillas by hand, the rhythmic pat-pat-pat of the dough being pressed filling the air. Families gather around tables, sharing plates of food and lively conversation.

But I’m distracted by a gaggle of children twirling and stomping in what appears to be a local talent show. Shoes clacking on the floor, their tiny bodies, adorned in traditional garb, move with surprising grace as they perform. Their shy smiles are as captivating to me as the aroma of churros that wafts from nearby.

Local kids dancing at the Historic Market Square SAn Antonio

The Historic Market Square, sprawled across three vibrant blocks, is the largest Mexican market in the US, and I’m right in the heart of it. Back out in the square, the strumming of a lone guitarist fills the air. I take a moment to admire the pretty wrought-iron balconies and pastel façades of the surrounding buildings, some dating back to the 18th century. But my eyes are drawn to Mi Tierra Café y Panadería.

Mi Tierra Café y Panadería.

Belly rumbling, I decide to pop in for a bite, but I am not prepared for the ocular onslaught of colour and noise that awaits. This landmark Mexican cafe and bakery, with its walls a riot of murals depicting Mexican folklore and history, ceilings crowded with colourful stars and twinkling lights, and tables adorned in bright tablecloths, creates a vibrant backdrop for dining. Mi Tierra’s menu is a celebration of authentic Mexican cuisine, and I happily dive into a plate of enchiladas smothered in zesty tomato sauce and Monterrey Jack cheese, served with a side of margarita and mariachi music. I’m full, but the panadería section’s array of freshly baked pastries, including sweet and fluffy conchas and a light and lovely tres leches cake, has my desert stomach kicking in.

sweet and fluffy conchas at Mi Tierra Café y Panadería. © Aleney de WInter

Belly full and a little squiffy from the margarita, I decide it’s time to hit the shops. I duck into El Mercado, the largest Mexican market outside of Mexico, where rows of stores overflow with handcrafted treasure.

dress at historic market square san Antonio

Cowboy hats, a nod to Texas’ Western heritage, share aisles with curios, garish ukuleles and eye-catching textiles; their patterns a vibrant conversation between pre-Columbian motifs and modern designs. Painted skulls and skeletons in fantastical outfits, a nod to Dia de Muertos, gleam with a macabre charm.

. Painted skulls and skeletons in fantastical outfits, a nod to Dia de Muertos, gleam with a macabre charm at the Historic Market Square San Antonio

A shimmer of intricate silver work beckons from a jewellery display, and I cannot resist snapping up Frida Kahlo-inspired earrings for my daughter.

Clutching my treasures as I step out into the square, a smile spreads across my face. The rain might dampen the concrete, but it can’t dampen the spirit of Historic Market Square. Buzzing with energy and colour, the market embodies the lively spirit of San Antonio, from its festive music and intricate artisanal creations to the tasty delights of authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. The atmosphere (and the margaritas) have proven so addictive that I decide to linger a little longer.

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Hey, I’m Aleney! A mum, award-winning travel writer, magazine editor and gallivanting glutton. He’s Raff, the “boy” in boyeatsworld, and a fearless foodie, adventurer and eco-warrior. Along with his all-singing, all-dancing, all-adventurous sister, Sugarpuff, we’re exploring the world’s colour, culture and cuisine on a food safari for the junior set.

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