Tag Archives: shopping in Mexico

Buying Clothing in Mexico

Truth be told, I find buying clothing in Mexico the most difficult shopping experience of all. I am never happy with neither the fit nor the quality of my purchases. I often can’t find anything suitable at all even after hours of searching. However, not having much of a choice, I’ve had to persevere.

Shoes can be bought at a zapatería. Having enormous feet (size 7 1/2 US) or at least compared to local residents, means that I am not able to find my size in the style that I want. Fortunately, our area has a Coppel now and it carries a larger variety of shoes in my size. There’s a little tradition when new shoes are purchased. It’s customary when you show off your new shoes, the person admiring them will step on your foot, leaving a shoe print mark, sort of like that first dent in your new car. It’s just an expected action. Get used to it.

 

You can get your shoes repaired, and find shoelaces, at the reparadora de calzado. Tio Felipe, when he wasn’t selling moonshine and Pepsi, worked as a cobbler until his eyesight became too bad.

Undergarments, bras, panties, slips, girdles, and such, can be found at the bonetería. This word very possibly comes from the whalebone corsets imported with the Spanish into Mexico. I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think undergarments were of high enough importance to rate their own specialty store, or even used for that matter, before the conquest. Be warned, bigger sizes of bras are hard to find, which I don’t understand since there are all sorts of boob sizes in Mexico, but be that as it may, the standard size and cup is 34B.

If you need a hat, head to the sombrerería. Western style hats, Easter hats, gardening hats and chachuchas (caps) can all be found here.

Our pueblo (town) is particularly known for its rebozos (traditional Mexican shawls) and there are specialty stores called rebocerías where you can find a multitude of thicknesses and patterns. Some rebozos are hand-made, others are manufactured, but all of them are lovely.

For scarves, accessories and handbags, head to the accesorios shop. Again, each shop is stocked with what the owner most likes, so you might have to go to more than one to find something that you like.

Jewelry can be bought, sold or repaired at the joyería, watches at the relojería. If you want to sell your jewelry items look for signs that say “se compra oro y plata.” (Gold and silver bought here.) They buy by the piece or some will just buy the gems (pedacería). If you just need repairs, take the item to the taller de joyería or relojería, but only a place that has a good reputation otherwise your grandmother’s diamond might be replaced with cubic zirconia and you’re none the wiser.

There are special stores to find a first communion, 3-year presentation outfits, Quinceañeras or school uniforms. Wedding dresses and funeral clothing (yes there are special outfits for the dearly departed) also have their specialty stores. Suits for Quinceañeras or weddings or other formal occasions can be bought or rented.

Our town and the neighboring town co-host 8 km of clothing shops. Talk about shopping overload! Each shop carries whatever it wants and has the sizes that the shopkeeper feels will sell the fastest, which usually isn’t the sizes I’m looking for. Women’s sizes are not the same as in the US, although men’s clothes seem to match. Anything over size Woman’s 12 is considered are talla extra (extra big size).

The weekly tianguis always has at least one vendor with huge piles of second-hand clothes you can dig through. This is a great place to find good quality children’s clothes at a reasonable price, however it is time consuming. Best to take a few of your lady friends and divide and conquer the mound.

You might also be able to find used clothing at bazaars. It’s quite a lucrative business to import second hand clothing and resell it here, mostly because the quality of the second-hand goods is far superior to the locally manufactured clothing items

There are also places that specialize in saldos, which are like outlet stores. Although you think you might be getting a good deal, these clothing items often are flawed in some way. Perhaps they are sized correctly or maybe the inseam was cut just a little bit too small. Let the buyer beware in this case.

Lest you think all hope is lost, if you head to larger areas, you may just find a store that sells clothing like Liverpool, Sears, and maybe even a Walmart, if that’s what you like. Of course, the prices are astronomical, imported goods and all, but it may be worth it to find long-lasting, comfortable and stylish clothing.

How has your shopping experience been in Mexico?

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Playing Tourist–Uriangato, Guanajuato

Uriangato, Guanajuato is Moroleon’s neighboring town and also believes itself to be a city.  They are so close they share the Calle de Ropa (Clothing street) and have been involved in recent land disputes over the Moroleon/Uriangato border. However, the culture between the two is centuries apart. Moroleon is on its way to becoming an unimaginative merchandising metropolis while Uriangato still has bonfire festivities.  

The name Uriangato (which to me sounds suspiciously like something that translates as cat pee) actually comes from the original Purepecha name of the settlement which was anapu-nani-hima-huriata-hari-jatzhicuni-anandini.  This translates roughly as Lugar donde el sol se pone levantado (the place where the sunset occurs on top) and refers to the fact that the western surrounding hills do not allow the sun’s rays to reach the town center from the early afternoon on, causing it to look like sunset most of the day. Apparently, the conquering Spanish could not pronounce the name and dubbed the area Uriangato.

Back in the year 940 or so, the area was inhabited by the Chichimecas and Otomies under the general jurisdiction of the Purepechas of Yuriria. At the time of the Spanish conquest in the 1500s, Uriangato was considered a border area dividing the Chichimeca and Purepecha domains.  In 1529, the area and its inhabitants were gifted to Juan de Tovar.  In 1549,  Fray Diego de Chávez founded la Congregación de Nativos (The Congregation of Natives), with the supposed goal of bettering the lives of the indigenous left in the area.  On February 20, 1604, King Felipe the Third decreed that the area would henceforth be known as the town of San Miguel Uriangato.

The monument in honor of Hidalgo and his forces passing through on the way to Morelia.

During the Mexican Independence War, Uriangato’s only involvement was allowing Hidalgo and his troops to pass through on their way to Valladolid (Morelia) on November 14, 1810.  There’s a monument in the town center marking that they too were part of the “Ruta de la Independencia.” (Road to Independence).

The animosity that still exists between Moroleon and Uriangato apparently began in the early 1830’s. There were some issues with vendors from Uriangato who wished to set up stalls in the area that is now known as Moroleon and were prohibited by locals. Neither city has forgotten.

In 1918, Uriangato was attacked by bandits under the leadership of J. Inés Chávez García.  The town rallied and drove the bad guys away. Venustiano Carranza himself sent his congratulations to the town officials. The Aniversario de la Heroica Defensa de Uriangato (anniversary of the Heroic Defense of Uriangato) is commemorated on June 24.

1918 was also the year that the Spanish Influenza hit Uriangato. During the months of October and November of that year, 25 to 30 bodies were buried daily with an estimated total death toll of 1500 residents.

The town tradition of the Globos de Cantoya (hot air balloons) began in 1928 as part of the festivities honoring San Miguel the Archangel during La Octava Noche.  I have not gone to see this particular aspect of the San Miguel tradition, not being a big fan of balloons and all, but the sawdust artistry of the tapetes (carpets) is really amazing. This is a relatively new tradition begun in 2009. The other major aspect of these celebration days are the candiles (bonfires). Nearly every household has a burning ocote fire in front of their home lit to guide San Miguel through the town. It’s an eerie experience. (See also Fogatas, tapetes, and San Miguel Arcangel ) The Fiesta de San Miguel Arcángel runs from September 19 to October 6 culminating in a procession over the tapetes with the image of San Miguel the archangel to and from La Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel.

You can find something for everyone–zombie, Guadalupe and pot shirts for sale here.

The first rebozo (shawl) textile factories in Uriangato were opened in the 1960s leading to the eventual creation of 4 km of street vendor stalls that continues on into Moroleon.  I find the whole shopping experience overwhelming.  I mean really, 4 kilometers of clothing? However, this is a big draw for people from other areas who buy quantities of clothing and then resell it in their own stores.

During the Christmas season, which is observed from December 16 to December 30, Los Enanitos Toreros (midget bullfighters) never fail to make an appearance.  Not something you are likely to see in Moroleon.

So if you like shopping, pageantry and midget bullfighters, you won’t want to miss stopping by Uriangato.

 

  

 

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Piano shopping

upright piano

My son has been after me for awhile about getting a piano.  As a piano is a major investment, I’d been putting him off.  Then, all of a sudden, my mom is getting rid of MY piano.  It’s an Opera piano made in 1893. It’s a gorgeous upright with a rich, melodious sound. Of course, it is in Pennsylvania and I haven’t played it in more than 20 years, but still.  According to The Antique Piano Shop, pianos made during the last decade of the 19th century (as my piano was) are “some of the finest craftsmanship and quality ever to be put into piano manufacturing.”  So it’s a pretty good piano.

Then, the very next day, there was an ad in the local paper about a piano for sale.  As we determined it would cost more to go and get MY piano than to purchase another one, we decided to go and check this one out.

 

The man who was selling the piano was obviously a music teacher.  The piano in question was a Kimball studio piano and he wanted 17,000 pesos for it.  I sat and played around on it for a bit.  It was ok.  It had been refinished.  The owner went on and on about the quality of the piano, that it came from a New York company and that it should be kept out of the light to protect the finish and sound.  Hmm–Kimball was never more than a mediocre piano, manufactured in Chicago, and I had NEVER heard anything about sound being affected by sunlight.  I said I would think about it and we left.

A few days later,  I sent my husband to ask if he would consider lowering the price.  I felt that maybe 14,000 pesos was a fair price.  My husband arrived and spoke with the owner who said he’d lower the price $500 pesos but then he wouldn’t tune the piano once it had been moved.  As my husband was leaving, he ran into another person who had come to see the piano.  This person said that he had purchased the piano but had returned it since it would not stay in tune.  This indicated to me that there was something wrong with the piano and I crossed it off the potential list.piano logo

So then I tried a google search.  Morelia is about an hour away and is a city with a bit of culture.  Certainly, there must be pianos for sale there.  I found a lovely website with pianos in my price range, however, messages and phone calls went unanswered.  So I went to the second in the list, Su Majestad El Piano (Your Majesty the Piano) a bit of a pretentious name, but I received an immediate response to my message.  They even have a page on Facebook.  I set up an appointment for that Friday and printed out driving directions.

warehouse piano

It was a straight shot to the local.  We arrived a little early and had time to enjoy some tacos de canasta (basket tacos) while we waited for the place to open.  We talked with Lulu the owner who suggested we go to the warehouse to see the options.  As we weren’t familiar with Morelia and it was raining cats and dogs, we all went in her mini-van.  

packard upright

It was an amazing experience.  First, we looked at the upright pianos much like MY piano in PA.  There was a whole room of them in various conditions.  Some were pristine, others looked like they needed some work.  We decided that an upright would just be too big for the little house in Sunflower Valley, so we headed out into the main warehouse.

brabury piano

It was a veritable feast for the senses. We must have spent about an hour walking up and down and looking over these pieces of history.  Lulu saw we were appreciative and had the workers uncover her masterpieces.  

There was a Bradbury square piano from the 1850s, a leather wrapped Wurlitzer piano, The Sting Player Piano, a piano Lulu called a Scorpion Tail Grand Piano, but actually was a concert grand piano, French pianos, German pianos, pianos so old that I could imagine Mozart playing on them, player pianos, more uprights, more grand pianos, more spinets and studio pianos, even a pink piano. What an experience!

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I was drawn to an unpretentious Winter spinet that according to the Piano Blue book was built around 1910.  The inside had slight damage, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed. The finish was scratched a bit, but nothing major.  My son approved.  My husband thought it would look good with my brown chairs (See Furnishings).  So a deal was struck.  I paid half down and the other half to be paid upon delivery.  Delivery charges would be $500 pesos.  The piano would be completely refinished and repaired.  I could order a bench for an additional $1000 pesos, however as I had already overspent my budget, that wasn’t gonna happen.  The piano would be tuned once it arrived, by one of Lulu’s sons, and I would receive a written copy of the 5-year guarantee.  

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We could hardly wait until Friday.  I told my son that he could stay home from school to receive the piano.  He was ecstatic.  Only the piano didn’t arrive.  After a few messages, I confirmed a delivery date for Saturday morning.  Then, before I knew it, we had a piano.  My son plopped his butt in a chair and off he went into the musical world.  Yes, it was out of my budget.  Yes, it’s a luxury item.  Yes, it cost more than my moto.  But, oh the sound of a piano!

Note:  All pianos pictured (except for MY piano and the Winter piano) are available from Su Majestad El Piano.

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Filed under Education, Mail Service and Shipping in Mexico, Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms

A room of her own–a washer

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

Doing the wash at the community laundry mat.

Now that the water and electric were established, it was time to manifest my next desire–a washing machine. I spent several weeks checking models and prices at different stores. Did I want one of the commonly found round chaka chaka models that I was pretty sure would work on most Mexican plumbing setups? Or did I want a square one like my mother has? The price difference was enormous! Some careful consideration was in order.

round-washer

The round chaka chaka washers (so name because of the chaka chaka noise they make as they agitate the clothes) were around 2,000 pesos. Although extremely economical, I had no idea how to use one. I tried to find some information on the internet and struck out. It seemed like it would use quite a bit of water as well. Then things would be sopping wet and take forever to dry unless I invested in a wringer too. The wringer I would have to order from someplace because that sort of technology is just not available here. It might not be a bad investment, though.

wringer

The next level of washers varied considerably. There were the basic machines with dials and then there were the digital computerized washers that were quite intimidating. They even came in fashion colors! Washers at the new store Fabrics de Francia cost up to 30,000 pesos! What did it do, fly? I really only wanted a basic machine. I hurried out of the store before a salesperson could convince me otherwise.

washer

I finally found what I wanted at a price I could afford at Famsa. It was a Whirlpool basic, cold water 15K capacity washer with a dial. It was under 5,000 pesos. Yep, gonna get it!

I mentioned my shopping experience at work, and a coworker suggested I wait for Buen Fin before I bought it. In case you haven’t heard of it Buen Fin is something like Black Friday, but not really. I haven’t ever gotten a good deal during Buen Fin sales, but since it was only 2 weeks away, I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to wait a bit just in case this year would be the year I would save money.  Furthermore, if the store did raise its prices to make it seem that there was a discount, well, I’d get the washer at about the same price anyway.

So I waited, mentally washing all the clothes, the towels, the blankets and the stinky, smelly jackets. When I had mentally washed all our items, I mentally washed all my father-in-law’s clothing and bedding. I plan on invading his home and taking everything for a good wash. Living in La Yacata means things often are not as clean as they could be with the limited water we have. (See After ecstasy, the laundry and Water Woes).

So the big day arrived. I headed to Famsa for my purchase. I checked out the other models but again found myself drawn to the same model. The price wasn’t any different from 2 weeks previously. I paid in cash with the option for store pickup because having it delivered was 120 pesos more.

The salesperson said it would be there on Monday. So we went on Monday. It wasn’t there. It seems the delivery truck broke down. So we went on Tuesday. It wasn’t there. The person who called had made a mistake and called the wrong person (us). So we went on Wednesday. After waiting 2 hours, it finally was hauled out of storage and in the back of the truck. Things in Mexico always take longer than expected.

Next was the hookup. I was a bit nervous about this. The plumbing and electricity in the house are not the best. And sure enough, there were problems. My husband changed the two prong plug for a three prong plug without incident. But when he went to add an adapter to the faucet, the whole thing crumbled to bits. Fixing it required a blow torch, new copper piping, and a new valve. But it got done.

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Then there was the drainage hose. First, it was connected to the sink, but the sink capacity wasn’t large enough for the waste water. So my husband drilled a hole through the wall to the pipe outside and voila, no more issues.

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My first load was towels. Man, you should have seen the dirty water! My second load of laundry was towels. Just as dirty! Then some jeans.  Then some uniforms.  I spent the weekend happily loading the washer, unloading the washer and hanging clothes. It took me a few loads to get the hang of it. I even watched the instruction video! But now, everything comes out spic and span! I have to say, everybody is pleased with this purchase.

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