La Nueva Viga Market
La Nueva Viga Market is the largest seafood market in Mexico and the second largest after the Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
The , commonly known as the , is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors....

 in Japan. It is located in Mexico City
Mexico City
Mexico City is the Federal District , capital of Mexico and seat of the federal powers of the Mexican Union. It is a federal entity within Mexico which is not part of any one of the 31 Mexican states but belongs to the federation as a whole...

 far inland from the coast, because of historical patterns of commerce in the country. The market handles 1,500 tons of seafood daily, representing about 60% of the total market. Most of the seafood is distributed to the Mexico City metropolitan area
Greater Mexico City
Greater Mexico City refers to the conurbation around Mexico City, officially called Mexico City Metropolitan Area , constituted by the Federal District—itself composed of 16 boroughs—and 41 adjacent municipalities of the states of Mexico and Hidalgo...

 and the states surrounding it, but there is distribution to other states and abroad.


The major distribution of seafood products has been centered in Mexico City for many years, first at the La Viga Market in the borough of Iztacalco
Iztacalco is one of the 16 delegaciones into which Mexico's Federal District is divided. It is located in the center-east of the district and is the smallest of the city’s boroughs. The area’s history began in 1309 when the island of Iztacalco, in what was Lake Texcoco, was settled in 1309 by the...

 and now at the La Nueva Viga Market in Iztapalapa. The reason the main seafood market is in the capital, rather than in a coastal city, is that Mexico City has a long history of being the economic center of the country. Since pre Hispanic times, much of the seafood and other produce either ended up or passed through here. The people of the Mexico City area have also become accustomed to enjoying the bounty provided by almost all of the states, so the demand for seafood is greatest here.

The first La Viga Market was established near the La Viga Canal, which was named after a 19th century ranch. In the 19th century, this area was filled with drying land, with artificial islands called “chinampas” and canals,including La Viga, which linked Chalco and Xochimilco
Xochimilco is one of the sixteen delegaciones or boroughs within Mexican Federal District. The borough is centered on the formerly independent city of Xochimilco, which was established on what was the southern shore of Lake Xochimilco in the pre-Hispanic period...

, which still had their lakes, to the lake port of San Lázaro, near the historic center of Mexico City
Historic center of Mexico City
The historic center of Mexico City is also known as the "Centro" or "Centro Histórico." This neighborhood is focused on the Zócalo or main plaza in Mexico City and extends in all directions for a number of blocks with its farthest extent being west to the Alameda Central The Zocalo is the largest...

. The canal and others in the area were drained and filled in in the very early 20th century, with the La Viga Canal becoming the Calzada de La Viga road. Around this new road, industries and neighborhoods emerged. The old La Viga Market still exists and still sells mostly wholesale, but its customers are more local, such as retailers and restaurants in Mexico City.

La Nueva Viga was established in the mid 1990s because the demand for wholesale seafood outstripped the old traditional market’s ability to distribute. It has become one of the most important markets in Latin America, and the second largest seafood market in the world, after Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market
Tsukiji fish market
The , commonly known as the , is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world and also one of the largest wholesale food markets of any kind. The market is located in Tsukiji in central Tokyo, and is a major attraction for foreign visitors....

 . It and the Mercado del Mar in Zapopan, Jalisco
Jalisco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Jalisco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and divided in 125 municipalities and its capital city is Guadalajara.It is one of the more important states...

 control almost all of the seafood distribution in the country.

Both the old traditional market and the new one are under the same management. The former market chairman was in the position for fifteen years. That term has since been shortened and the current chairman, Jorge Toral Peña, has only a three year term. He plans a change in the retail area to include a gourmet plaza and area permanently dedicated to promoting the health benefits of eating seafood. On Saturdays, the market hosts cooking classes and hosts contests for seafood recipes.


La Nueva Viga is located on Prologación Eje 6 Sur, Colonia San José Aculco, Iztapalapa . It is located on the property of the government owned Central de Abasto
Central de Abasto, Mexico City
The Central de Abasto is Mexico City’s main wholesale market for produce and other foodstuffs run similarly to traditional public markets. It was constructed to be the meeting point for producers, wholesalers, retailers and consumers for the entire country...

, but this market is privately owned. The facility extends over 9.2 hectares, with 202 wholesale warehouses, 55 retail warehouses and 165 sellers in total. Four warehouses have certified products and another 80 have been ranked has having excellent handling practices, expecting certification.

While by far most of the businesses inside sell fresh and frozen fish, there are other business selling kitchen supplies, groceries and even banks. Outside there is some public transportation and freight services.

The workday starts early, at four am, when trucks loaded with fresh seafood arrive. Between 20,000 and 25,000 customers pass through the facility on any given day. Many clients are restaurant owners from in and around Mexico City. From 6 am, when stalls open to 6pm, the market is filled with shouts of merchants attracting customers, as well as the sounds of blades as mountains of fish and other seafood are gutted, chopped and otherwise prepared. The market employs about 7,500 people, many of whom are from coast areas and used to the strong odor of fish the permeates the interior.

Products sold

La Nueva Viga handles the largest volume of seafood and has the largest assortment of ocean products in Mexico. Approximately 300 different fresh and frozen species and approximately 100 imported frozen species are marketed every day in this supply center. This includes every kind of fish imaginable to shellfish, shrimp, and even sharks and manta ray
Manta ray
The manta ray is the largest species of the rays. The largest known specimen was more than across, with a weight of about . It ranges throughout waters of the world, typically around coral reefs...

s. An average of 500 tons of fresh fish and 1000 tons of frozen products are handled each day, about sixty percent of the national fishing production, and the second largest volume in the world after the fish market in Tokyo. Most of the seafood is domestic, but imported product can be found from five continents. The seafood comes from all of the coasts of Mexico, but most domestic product comes from the Gulf of Mexico. There is a website dedicated to the inventory of the market, which is updated daily at

In the Christian tradition, Lent is the period of the liturgical year from Ash Wednesday to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer – through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and...

 is the busiest season for La Nueva Viga and all seafood vendors of Mexico. In 2010, La Nueva Viga sales during this season were 2,500 tons per day. At this time, there are more than one hundred species of fish and shellfish in season, with some selling as low as twelve pesos per kilo. For this important time, federal health officials inspect this and other markets to check for contaminants such as salmonella
Salmonella is a genus of rod-shaped, Gram-negative, non-spore-forming, predominantly motile enterobacteria with diameters around 0.7 to 1.5 µm, lengths from 2 to 5 µm, and flagella which grade in all directions . They are chemoorganotrophs, obtaining their energy from oxidation and reduction...

 bacteria and various parasites, in order to reassure the public that the supply is safe.

Most of the seafood sold here is sent to other states and exported as well as sold to more local restaurants and retail markets. Seventy percent of the product sold goes to the city and the neighboring states of Hidalgo, Tlaxclas, Puebla, Morelos and State of Mexico. Much of what is exported is the most expensive, such as sea bass
Sea bass
-Family Serranidae:* Barred sand bass , lives mainly off the coast of California* Black sea bass , whose range is the eastern coast of the United States...

, shrimp, and lobster. However, the most economical species are often not sold in Mexico either as they are unknown to most people’s dietary habits. By far, the most popular seafood sold here and in the rest of Mexico is shrimp, followed weakly by mojarra. For popular species of fish, vendors report that little is wasted. Even the heads, which are often chopped off for clients are reused. The meat inside them is taken out and sold as is or formed into croquets. Spines and other bones with scraps are sold for the making of stock. However, an estimated seven tons of product per day consisting of less popular species is wasted because it does not sell in time.

While the locations selling fresh and frozen fish dominate the market, there are a number of other businesses in the facility as well. The market also has a large number of prepared food stands selling tamale
A tamale — or more correctly tamal — is a traditional Latin American dish made of masa , which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. The wrapping is discarded before eating...

s, tacos, cocktails, fillets and other seafood dishes. There are also business selling knives, copper cookware, other kitchen utensils, groceries, banks and government offices.


One major challenge to the market is the decline in sales of domestically produced seafood. These have fallen as much as forty percent by some estimates. Vendors at the market claim that some is due to competition from foreign seafood, but most is due to the lack of promotion of seafood by federal government officials, even the Comité Nacional de Fomento al Consumo de Producto Pesquero, which is tasked to do just that. The complaint is that this committee only promotes seafood during the Lent. Due to free trade agreements, seafood from countries such as China, Panama
Panama , officially the Republic of Panama , is the southernmost country of Central America. Situated on the isthmus connecting North and South America, it is bordered by Costa Rica to the northwest, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The...

 and Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...

 are appearing at the market and now account for about 10 percent of the sales. Domestic seafood is generally better quality as it spends less or no time frozen, but the frozen imported product is often cheaper. Common imported species include tilapia
Tilapia , is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapia inhabit a variety of fresh water habitats, including shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes. Historically, they have been of major importance in artisan fishing in Africa and the...

, shark, sparidae
The Sparidae is a family of fish, included in the order Perciformes. The fish of the family are commonly called sea breams and porgies . The sheepshead, scup, and red sea bream are species in this family. They are found in shallow temperate and tropical waters and are bottom-dwelling carnivores....

 or porgies and carp
Carp are various species of oily freshwater fish of the family Cyprinidae, a very large group of fish native to Europe and Asia. The cypriniformes are traditionally grouped with the Characiformes, Siluriformes and Gymnotiformes to create the superorder Ostariophysi, since these groups have certain...


Another problem is that although the market is only fifteen or so years old, the facility has experienced severe deterioration in that short time. One of the major problems is insufficient drainage, leading to bacterial build up and causing the interior to smell very strongly. However, there are also serious problems with the facilities ceilings and floors as well. Renovation costs are estimated at 100 million pesos. As the market is a private operation, separate from the government, Mexico City authorities state that they cannot provide the financing needed for renovations, but are working with private sources to find alternatives.}

The market faces competition with a planned market in Baja California
Baja California
Baja California officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Baja California is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is both the northernmost and westernmost state of Mexico. Before becoming a state in 1953, the area was known as the North...

, which accounts for 75% of the seafood produced in Mexico. One reason this market is planned is because of the sanitation problems at La Viga.

One last problem is that there is a lack of public transportation to the facility, making it difficult for many retail buyers to shop here.

See also

Traditional fixed markets in Mexico
Traditional fixed markets in Mexico
Traditional fixed markets in Mexico go by a variety of names such as "mercados públicos" , "mercados municipales" or even more often simply "mercados"...

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