Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shopping Challenges On This Side of the Border

I am just barely above average at 5'8" tall which is mountainous compared to the average Mexican woman (or man), weighing more than I should, and wearing size 9 shoes.  I tried to buy shoes once in Durango.  The largest shoe size anyone carried was a Mexico size 6 which, according to the conversion charts, is a size 9 in the US.  Huh, uh!  Feeling like one Cinderella's ugly step-sisters, I tried to stuff my foot into the shoe like a sausage.  Finding clothes in the 14/16 range is only slightly difficult, but I find that pants are cropped for petite woman so they end up a couple inches above my ankle.  Is showing the belly button still in fashion with wearing shirts too short?   So what's a gal to do?  Well, like thousands of Mexicans, I head for La Plaza Mall in McAllen to do my shopping.  Even on the Texas side, I often find the clothes too petite.  I'm getting used to wearing clothes Mexican-style (too tight).

I do love Mexican food with all types of salsas but shopping for food can be a challenge too, especially when I crave some white people food.  Frozen food section at S-Mart, Soriana, or HEB? Yeah, right! Practically nonexistent.  No self-respecting Mexican would eat an .88 cent Banquet frozen dinner.  The produce section is usually the brightest spot of the stores, although sometimes the tomatoes are a sorry looking bunch.  I miss the good 'ol big boy tomatoes from Iowa.  Peppers are abundant with 3.2 million different varieties.  I already did a blog on the oil section, er, I mean, oil aisle.  However, what throws me off is the cuts of meat.  In Iowa I had never seen thin slices of chicken legs/thighs, bones and all.  Many of the cuts of meat are sliced thin like bacon.  I won't even go into the chicken heads and feet I saw at the tianguis in Mexico City, but what's up with the whole chickens?  They are like really super yellow.  I'm scared to eat them 'cuz I think the chickens died of jaundice.  And when I am dying for a good ol' Yankee pot roast, I have to head to the Texas side to find a huge hunk of round meat. Even on the Texas side it is difficult to find a roast section at the stores.  While I'm there in Texas, I also pick up Swiss cheese since I am unable to find it in Reynosa.  The turkey I bought for Thanksgiving was bought in Texas which brings up a whole other topic... stoves.  Most Mexicans use their stoves for storing dishes and tupperware.  Amazingly, our Thanksgiving turkey came out steamingly and juicely delicious even though we had no thermometer and the stove was set at 5 (as in 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5). How do you translate that into Fahrenheit? Or Celsius?  I can deal with Celsius and other odd metric measurements as long as I have the internet to do a conversion.

I'd love to hear from others about their food and clothing challenges especially if you don't have the luxury of shopping in Texas regularly like me.  How do you cope?


  1. Oh, hun! I feel your pain! After moving to Mexico, I have come to hate shopping for shoes. Whenever I walk into a shoe store, I don't even bother looking at what's on display. I just ask to see whatever they have in a Mexican 6. You should see the looks of horror I get from the salesgirls.:P

    And don't get me started on lingerie shopping. I'm a BIG girl. I need a 42DD bra. But the salesgirls INSIST that I will fit into a 38D, which is the biggest bra size I have found. Now I just save up any dollars that my Hubby gets from the Norteños and ask my sis-in-law to bring me a bunch of bras when she comes to visit.

    And as far as clothes are's a good thing that I know how to sew! ;)

  2. yellow chickens are a good thing....they are mostly organic...they are yellow is good...when in Valles mama Mari picks a few pollos and breaks the neck and pulls the feathers and boils them over a open fire...those are the yellowist pollos i've ever seen. But...they were never given hormones to help them grow. Fresh back yard...pollos! Darn you missed the pollo pickin...maybe next time we head south to Valles you can see the pollos and how they do tamales!

  3. Oh, I feel your pain. I saw the same looks of horror from the shoe salespeople. I haven't attempted lingerie shopping on this side I don't think I ever will! I've got a stacked rack that would need to be pressed to fit a 38D.

  4. Yellow chickens are a good thing? I forgot to mention how the milk is spoiled in two days but if I buy milk on the Texas side, it last for severals days. What chemicals and preservatives are in USA mile?

  5. I tried some shoe shopping as well in MX and i wear a US size 10. They just stared at me and kept bringing out to small shoes insisting i try to shove my feet in them.

  6. Rita, I understand completely. I am 14hours away from the border with size 10 feet, so I do not even look for shoes here anymore. I have them purchased in the US and someone sends/brings them.

    Had to laugh about the MIL desperately wanted me to get her bras when I went to the US last time, as she was convinced they were better quality. Sure, I said. She was emphatic that she was a 38B, despite my concern that she needed something larger. I knew there was NO WAY she could be that size so I picked her up a couple 42Cs and took the tags off before I gave them to her.

    She has raved about her them ever since - telling all the neighbors and anyone who will listen how much better the American bras are...when really, she just needed the right size. ;-)

  7. Rebecca and Leah,

    Thank goodness we live in a country where flipflops can be worn most of the year and are quite fashionable. Let´s pray they never go out of style.

  8. I never buy bras here! I'm a 36 A, and all they sell here are B's with the occasional C. I go crazy at Victoria's Secret when I visit the States.

    Shorts, skirts and jeans... can't find them in my size here. No way no how. I'm about a size 10, and even the size "14" here won't fit over my hips. (No I'm not in denial, I swear I'm a size 10)

    Dresses and blouses are awesome, though.

    My shoe issue is that I'm a very popular size... 4.5. Mexican stores always seem to run out, saying "well, it's the most common size" Yes, well, in that case you should have MORE of them, shouldn't you??

    I agree with you Rita... thank goodness for flip flops and sandals! Love them :)

  9. I've heard Bo Pilgrim say a yeller chicken is a fat chicken. I've also heard that sometimes Mexican farmers feed broilers cempazuchitles (marygolds) to get that preferred golden color. We've seen Borden's milk from the US at Aurora and Walmart from Monterrey to Puebla.

    There is a gas mark conversion chart here:

    We gave our neighborhood carnicero a chart (he has it hanging in his shop) like some available here:

    He said it doubled his business as customers like the idea of serving "Americano". You can take a notebook sized chart shopping but you will probably still have to let it "bleed" once you get it home, as meat in much of Mexico is still all about "fresh".

  10. Dear Anonymous, Thank you for the gas conversion. I didn't know one existed. No wonder pizza come out tasting like rubber. My oven at #5 doesn't get hot enough to cook a pizza.

  11. Wow, you guys have had a lot of luck finding bras. I have my daughter send them down for me. Here they are all B cups, I have seen some that I think are a small A, but they all say B. I think the next ones she needs to measure though, one of the ones she sent last time is a good 6" too small around and I double checked and the tag says 38, but it is maybe a 30. Shoes? There are usually some in my size 26 1/2 but the styles are "interesting." I live in an area with a lot of tall women (and a lot of very short) so what they have here are usually unhemmed pants. I do find that they tend to be very short-waisted though. The better to give you that lovely muffin-top look so many here seem to prefer.