The shopping experience is accompanied by home-grown musicians armed with guitars. The cacophony of vendors touting their fresh produce mixes with the ubiquitous renditions of 'La Cucaracha' and the piercing sounds of whetting steel (here, the local expertise lies in knife sharpening).
On Wednesdays, at La Villa de Etla, Andrea Luna Bautista sells her world-famous queso Oaxaca surrounded by the market's pop-up kitchens. She is a third-generation cheesemaker, having inherited a small holding from her mother, and has taken on the challenge of promoting local artisanal food to the wider world. Every Friday she runs the El Pochote organic market, a small coop on the edges of the historic centre in Oaxaca City, where each stall is a step in a journey across the state's varied food scenes, from the lemony ginger of the Pacific shores to the high mountain honey of the Sierra Madre. Though here it's not all about food – there are also vibrant silk scarves for balmy valley evenings and hand-woven ponchos for chilly highland climates.
Back in Etla, Andrea's other cheese, queso fresco, the Latin American cousin of ricotta and feta, is used liberally on the quesadillas at the stall nearby. A group of local women sit around a large stove where the proprietor skilfully flattens the blue-corn dough, spreading bean paste and freshly shaven cactus (known as nopales) on top. The customers, seated on mismatched, colourful plastic stools, choose their toppings – meat is always popular with chicken and pork vying for the top spot. Courgette flowers and cubed pumpkin are also available for a lighter bite.
A stream of mobile merchants flows around the diners through the main arteries of market. They sell pastries, plaits of garlic and, of course, agua fresca straight from plastic bags with straws. The choice of flavours induces instant fear of missing out – it will take more than a day to try them all. Beyond the traditional tamarind and agua de jamaica (dried hibiscus flower) options, there's sweet strawberry, refreshing pineapple and comforting coconut, as well as the more unusual soursop, prickly pear and alfalfa flower. And Mexicans do not skimp on servings – a normal cup is a whole litre and it's a fraction of the price found in the city.