Mexicans looking to dodge inflation, keep Lent tradition alive
Mexico City, Apr 13 (EFE).- Rocio Franco is a housewife who each year at this time goes to La Viga, Latin America’s largest seafood market, to look for the best prices for the meals she prepares during Lent, trying to avoid the impact of inflation in Mexico.
“(We come here) each year. It’s for the Holy Week celebrations,” she told EFE on Wednesday as she examined the food items for sale in the various food stands.
She, like thousands of Mexicans, adheres to the Lenten custom of not eating meat during this period and this enormous market, located in eastern Mexico City, is the best option for finding good prices.
However, this year, Rocio, who came to the market with her nephew, found that the prices of the products were not exactly what she had expected.
“Everything’s very expensive. The truth is that it’s not convenient (to cook) fish, but we have to do it. We have to keep up our traditions,” she said.
Rocio said, for example, that the shrimp used for seafood cocktails, has gone up in price.
“(Last year) I was buying the shrimp for 150 or 180 pesos ($7.50 to $9) but today (it’s) 250 or 275 ($12.62 to $13.39),” she said.
Because of the rising prices, she knows that she has to limit the amount of food that she normally buys to feed her seven-member family during the Lenten season.
“A year ago, I made ’empanadas’ (meat pies), steak. Today, only tongue, surimi and other things. (I bought) steak, but a cheaper cut,” she said.
The coronavirus pandemic, which first hit Mexico in March 2020, has affected the sales at the stalls in the market over the past two years.
However, today the shopkeepers are feeling more hopeful about their sales despite the fact that the products have gotten more expensive due to the inflation that is affecting almost everyone.
Mexico’s overall inflation rate rose in March to 7.45 percent year-on-year, its highest level since 2001. Items such as food, beverages and tobacco moved up 10.08 percent.
“Right now, (sales) have improved. A year ago, they were less because of the pandemic, but right now it’s getting better, there are more people (here). It’s filling up with people,” Justino Ponce, one of the shopkeepers at the huge market told EFE while he set out fresh fish on ice for his customers.
Having sold fish and other seafood for more than a decade, Ponce said that red snapper, sea bass, swordfish, dogfish, shrimp and other items are “getting more scarce” and so “it’s very expensive,” especially before Lent.
“Even so, people are coming and we’re making sales,” he added.
According to estimates by the capital’s Economic Development Secretariat (Sedeco), during this year’s Lenten season, which lasts from March 2 to April 14, the market will take in 568 million pesos (about $29 million), a 40 percent increase over 2021.
However, not all shopkeepers are as optimistic as Ponce.
Juan Camacho, who says he sells the “finest” fish like sea bass and red snapper, admits that sales, at least during the first three days of this important week, have been “normal.”
Before the pandemic, the authorities estimated that the market, in Holy Week alone, would sell more than 750 tons of some 500 marine species.
However, Camacho doesn’t think that sales will reach that level, saying “Here, for us, the truth is that (sales) have gone down by 40 percent.”