By Kate Linthicum
Los Angeles Times
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) With hundreds of aestheticians competing for business at Mexico City’s Plaza de Belleza, it may be the world’s largest open-air spa.
Mexico City’s Plaza de Belleza, or Beauty Square, has the trappings of any other Mexican market: Vendors peddle small electronics, cheap clothes and fresh-cut mango drizzled with hot sauce.
But this market is dominated by a very different kind of commerce.
People come here to get pretty.
Sitting in chairs on the sidewalk or inside stalls divided by plastic tarps, customers get their faces waxed, eyebrows threaded, teeth whitened and the calluses scraped off their feet.
The services, as diverse as acne treatments and application of 4-inch-long acrylic nails, are performed right there in the open, in full view of strangers hustling by.
With hundreds of aestheticians competing for business, the plaza may be the world’s largest open-air spa.
Tucked behind a looming 16th century monastery, it’s a paradise for those who can’t afford the expensive salons offering tea and cucumber water in snootier parts of the city.
It’s not a place for the shy.
People come from far and wide to beautify before all sorts of occasions: quinceaneras, baptisms, hot dates.
Nail stylist Habib Mansur’s favorite clients are brides preparing for their weddings.
“It’s a total thrill,” said Mansur, a 22-year-old man with dark hair and bright green eyes. “You get to be a part of the most important day of their life.”
Mansur, who started out a few years ago as a hairstylist but who switched to nails “because I hated having all those little bits of hair all over me,” works at a stall called Antology Nail. It’s one of perhaps 70 nail stalls that crowd the west side of the plaza.
The smell of acetone is overpowering, and the design aesthetic borders on the frightening: Each stall features racks of disembodied plastic hands affixed with acrylic tips that advertise the stylists’ work.