Patzcuaro barter market.

21 Dec 2022

At a time when our international monetary system is dying and natural food resources are weakened, a window is opening, allowing us to reinvent the way we feed ourselves and trade. And why not take inspiration from what the natives have managed to save against all odds over the centuries ? I present to you the heritage bequeathed to us by the Purépecha, natives of Mexico.

Patzcuaro is a small town in the state of Michoacan in Mexico. It is the place of life of the natives named Purépecha. These natives managed to retain their language and culture, thus resisting a policy of extermination of minorities for centuries. This town of craftsmen and farmers is located on the edge of a lake, the “Lake of Patzcuaro”. These lake basins ensure great natural resources and great biological diversity. The Patzcuaro barter market concerns the indigenous communities on the edge of the lake (Patzcuaro, Erongaricuaro, Tzintzuntzan…). It is an indigenous market called Tianguis. It is a Nahuatl word which means space of exchange.

This type of exchange seems to date back to pre-Columbian times. This type of market is based on a community or even inter-community structure. It is the different native communities on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro who meet there to exchange freely.

This market takes place twice a week, on Tuesday and Friday from 6am (unfortunately!) in a square next to the place of worship of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mostly women are present. No one for placing, no stall fees. The women simply put a sheet on the ground and present their products: fish from the lake, corn, vegetables, fruits, plants, crafts…
The game is to identify what we need and go negotiate, see if our needs are complementary. It is possible to refuse an exchange if the product opposite does not suit us, or to go find a third party and make the exchange to three. If an agreement is made, the quantities must then be determined. Participants are generally very generous. It’s a real ballet between people who stay at their stand and those who move.

I admit, I used this market to test barter but also my potential for materialization and exchange based on my donations. The first thing that came to mind when I decided to experience the barter market was: what am I going to be able to trade ? And it is for me the most beautiful gift to ask myself the question: what are my gifts, productions or wealth that I can exchange, share ? I started by harvesting rosemary and peppermint from a garden. The peppermint was a great success. Not rosemary, too common at this altitude (2200 meters). And in exchange I chose vegetables and plants. I then printed my flower photos, explaining that the beauty vibration of flowers helps us embody more love and heal. Small success despite a total adherence to my words. I end up offering these imperfect print quality photos (But this experience allows me to go further in the materialization of my photos. The next step will be printing on photo paper on consignment sale in a cultural center). Then I embark on the creation of microdoses of medicinal plants made from mother tinctures. My first creation is a microdose of Kalanchoé known to deinflame the body and thus prevent cancer. After a short success, I realize that the needs must be reciprocal. What do these women need ? Small survey during a market, what comes far ahead of demand is a cure for diabetes. And given the sugar level in the cakes, I could have guessed! I then composed a microdose of 3 plants for diabetes. Then I perceived their request for seeds and shared a harvest of Fennel and chickpeas that I had in sufficient quantity in my seed bank. For me these exchanges are very rich, it’s like a game. It’s a space of freedom where we meet simply without intermediaries, without the money that separates us. It is truly a feeling of joy and freedom to regain your power, to value your gifts and to reconnect with the abundance of nature.

Here are 2 testimonials from occasional participants:

Jorge EM:
Troc is a community of merchants, it is dedicated to “Living without money”, it only takes a little skill and creativity to participate in the “barter market”. The products are varied ranging from vegetables, glasses, clothes and even Christmas cribs. The barter activity requires a connection between people, where the exchange is done by mutual agreement, that is, both parties must agree on the amounts to be exchanged according to their needs. In this context, money is completely useless and only the relationship between the two participants is necessary. If you want to live this experience you have to take things that you think are useful to others and that you don’t need, then you have to establish a simple and sincere dialogue with the traders, after a few minutes you will see how much it is easy to receive what you need and get rid of what is not useful to you.

Magali LM:
At the barter market, I experienced simplicity in exchange. I realized with my experience and that of my friends that we always have something to offer, whether it’s personal belongings, plants or fruits picked in nature or even artisanal creations. I feel that it is still difficult for me to offer my natural gifts in the classic way… except at the barter market where with this simple rule of exchange, what I offer is successful. My question at the moment is: why does it work in barter and not in donation on more classic formats ?

So the barter market are places of exchanges without intermediaries, the profits remain in the community. It is a type of solidarity economy maybe our futur way to exchange. Beyond the exchange of products, it is a meeting place, an experience of living together and sharing thoughts, joys and feelings.

There is an evolution of this market according to the seasons, economic realities and society. Non-natives are now participating in this market. They are positioned on the sides. They are mostly men who do not trade but sell. They generally take up twice as much floor space as Purépechas. And their goods are no longer natural local productions but synthetic industrial manufactures.

Today, the essence of the market is diluted, but the spirit is still present. This incredible space where you can exchange, where you can meet your needs locally and without money exists and continues. The new world is already present, it is there, before our eyes. Yes, we can live without money. Yes, a solidarity economy exists. Yes, we have the possibility, wherever we are, to create such spaces for exchange. It is at the same time a challenge and an exceptional opportunity to live today this transition between these two worlds. A big thank you to the Purépechas !


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