Friday, July 4, 2014
Living on Mexico: The perennial "tiendita"
Also, known as "tiendita de la esquina," a tiendita is a small store that typically sells very basic food items. However, it is mostly known for being a place where you can easily and quickly get soda, snacks, chips, candy, chocolate, and beer.
The advantage of tienditas consist of being within walking distance. In fact, in most places you'll be hard pressed to NOT find a tiendita nearby. And if you find a tiendita-free zone, then you'll know you're in a zone designed for gringos.
Tienditas have several functions. In a country where planning is not a priority, it allows a person to get that one item that she forgot to buy at the market or supermarket. It also offers a quick place to get a small reward for a child. It is not uncommon for children to be given a few pesos so they can get a candy at the tiendita. Of course, adults might decide to treat themselves to a beer or a snack.
Mexican people like to visit each other, but unlike other cultures, they don't see anything wrong with bringing an extra friend (or two, or three) without notice. In fact, they might even drop by without a call. This is typically not seen as rude. Yet, the host is forced to offer food and beverages to his or her guests. In such cases, a 5 minute walk to the tiendita and 10 dollars will get enough beer and snacks to comply with his host obligations.
Tienditas also allow people that can't get a job for some reason or another to do something to earn money. Sometimes, the person that will sell you items at the tiendita will be an elderly or handicapped person. Sometimes, it'll be a teenager or a child. Lastly, buying often from the same tiendita might give you some privileges. For poor people, one of the most valuable ones is some form of extremely informal or just practical credit. Many Mexican mothers send their children to get something from the tiendita with a promise of payment the next day.
The dark side of the tienditas is that many corporations use them as a vehicle to distribute unhealthy products to poor people. People who run tienditas typically don't have the means for efficiently transporting goods from suppliers to their stores. So, when Coca-Cola comes and delivers their products directly to their stores, it is a good deal for them, specially because these corporations also loan equipment, such as fridges, chairs and tables with their logos at little or no cost.
Tienditas, like piñatas, are a big part of the Mexican culture, and they will likely remain so for decades.
Robert Ervin is a freelancer who writes about healthcare, medical tourism, and living in Mexico.
If you're considering traveling to Mexico for healthcare or retiring in Mexico, you may want to get yourself a copy of The English's Speaker's Guide to Doctors and Hospitals in Mexico in order to find a good doctor or hospital in the main towns and cities of Mexico, or The English Speaker's Guide to Medical Care in Mexico, to understand how the Mexican healthcare system works.