Los chavos, las chavas and El Chopo


3 October 2017


El Chopo is a punk-rock street market located just north of the historical center. This countercultural space began operating in the 1980s. Since then, every Saturday vendors take to the streets and young people (los chavos and las chavas) flock. It is estimated that between 5,000-10,000 people use it weekly. There are approximately 200 stands selling all sorts of merchandise related to Mexican counterculture.


Over the years, the space has been gradually institutionalized as a formal tianguis (street market). But the merchandise sold, the concerts organized, and the aesthetics of young people attending these weekly events retain a transgressive feel. Youth generally realize various activities there, such as selling and buying clothes, books, magazines, and music linked to various music genres socializing, and playing or listening to music.

TRYMexico selected this case study to explore how an informal and transgressive practice and space become tolerated, formalized, and even institutionalized. What is the story of this institutionalization? How has it impacted different youth generations? Why would city authorities want to institutionalize such space?


Despite formalization, however, the space remains transgressive on various levels: aesthetically of course, as a focal point of Mexican counterculture, but also economically because of the types of merchandises sold or exchanges without monetary transaction (some, but not all of them, generated through counterfeiting, self-made books, magazines) and the types of employment provided (in the informal sector).

What other forms of transgressive practices can be observed? And who considers what as transgression? Transgression according to what norms?


Various regulation regimes are at work in El Chopo: formal permits to operate the market, vendor organization based on personal relations, peer-to-peer regulation of aesthetics… what other forms of regulation exist?