COVID-19 Border Closures 'Catastrophic' To Sonoran Flea Markets

By Murphy Woodhouse
Published: Monday, August 31, 2020 - 5:05am
Updated: Monday, August 31, 2020 - 9:33am

Sonoran Tianguis
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Benito Encinas' teenage son Emilio hands him a bicycle from the top of a load of used Arizona goods that he brought back to the Hector Espino Tianguis in May 2019.

For years, small-scale entrepreneurs in Sonora have turned Arizonans’ second-hand goods into a major business south of the border. But pandemic border restrictions are now threatening it.

Before those restrictions went into effect in March, trucks heading south piled high with furniture, tools, bikes and other yard sale merchandise were common sights on Arizona highways. Their destinations were tianguis, vast outdoor flea markets that employ thousands in the Mexican state. But now northbound border crossing are restricted to “essential” trips.

“It’s hit us hard,” said the Common Front of Sonoran Tianguistas’ Luis Rodriguez of the restrictions, as well as months of mandated closures that ended over the summer.

Now open, they don’t have a way to stock their shelves. Rodriguez says the group recently asked Sonoran and federal authorities to work with U.S. counterparts so that tianguistas’ trips to Arizona are deemed essential. They’ve yet to hear a response. Continuing without a solution through the end of the year could be "catastrophic" for the industry, Rodriguez said. 

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