Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bodega Blues

Tuesday's blog entry was a personal mini-manifesto of sorts, and writing it was pretty darn cathartic. Perhaps the highlight (for me, anyway) was the brief rant about Bodega Aurrera, the Wal-Mart-owned retail megastore that arrived in Huajuapan three years ago and has been closing down local independent shops ever since.

I think that some of Sam Walton's folks might be Gringa Culichi readers, because Bodega took its revenge on me yesterday.

Let me explain, first with an admission. There's a saying here in Mexico: "Mira el burro hablando de orejas." It translates to "look at the donkey talking about ears," kind of the Spanish version of the "pot calling the kettle black" line we English speakers pull when someone is being, well, hypocritical.

I bring up the topic of hypocrites mainly because that's what I am. Yesterday found me standing smack dab in the middle of Bodega Aurrera.

Yes. I know: Pot, kettle. Donkey, ears.

As part of my paycheck here at the university, I get about $200 pesos worth of vales, which I think might best be described as glorified food stamps, each month. The vales can be applied to the purchase of foods and goods at only a select number of locations here in Huajuapan. And by "select," I mean they can only be applied to the purchase of foods and goods at Bodega Aurrera.

Now, I do consider myself to be a principled person. But I'm also broke. Really broke. I'm not in a position to "throw away" $200 pesos worth of "free" food. The way I see it, so long as I'm not spending "my" money at Bodega, so long as I only spend the vales, I'm at taking some kind of small stand. It's a grey area. Go with me, folks.

So, I marched into Bodega yesterday, vales in hand, hoping to get the shopping done quickly before anyone saw me in Satan's Layer...err, the store.

I was angry at myself for being in Bodega.

I was angry at the stupid vale system that caused me to be in Bodega.

I was angry at the forces of global economics and politics that caused Bodega to be in Huajuapan in the first place.

And, later, I got really really really angry at Bodega itself.

I had gotten my groceries in record time and was at the checkout. I had worked my way up to the front of a long, long line of people (apparently other Huajuapeños do not share my poor opinion of Bodega) and was waiting for the cashier to finish scanning my stuff. Because I had spent so long in line, I was in a hurry to get back to work on time. I took out my booklet of vales (they come in denominations of $100 pesos to $20 pesos are tightly stapled into this little paper book) and prepared to pay.

I tried to take out the $100 peso voucher, but in my rush, accidentally tore the corner. Not thinking twice, I handed it to the cashier anyway. Money (or faux money) is still money.

She looked at my torn vale disdainfully. "Esto no sirve." That won't work.

Turns out the damn vales lose all value if they're torn. Essentially, I'd just thrown away $100 pesos, or half of my ration. Ugh.

Now, after nearly six months in Mexico, my Spanish is decent. I find that I'm able to express myself pretty well in most situations. Standing in line at the pinche Bodega, what I really wanted to say was, "I thought you soulless capitalist corporate pigs took money in any form!"

But the words wouldn't come to me. And, of course, the situation wasn't the cashier's fault. In fact, she is one of the few people that actually benefits from having Bodega in town -- she has a decent job and a decent wage, at least by Huajuapeño standards.

So, I sighed, resigned the damaged $100 peso vale to the deep recesses of my wallet, and grudgingly took out a hard-earned $100 peso bill to replace it. Yes, I spent my own money in Bodega. Real money. I broke my own rule. It was either that or hold up the long line further while I figured out which groceries I could afford with my remaining vales.

Mira el burro hablando de orejas.

Pinche Bodega.


Quinto Sol said...

Pinche bodega indeed.

Sara Mac said...

Newsflash: I was just informed by a friend that there are, indeed, other places in Huajuapan to spend vales. So, not only am I a hypocrite, but I'm also an ignorant one. And I'm fat. Thanks, Nate.

Quinto Sol said...

Ah Sara, you're too hard on yourself. I am sure, now that you know you have an alternative, la pinche bodega will not see you again. :-)

Anonymous said...

Sara...You are Fat and I like it! Ha!!!!

Anonymous said...

Um...I don't know what Happened but it posted my comment under your name Sara...It should have put it under my name...weird!!!!

-Sara Pax

Sara Mac said...

Wow. Not only am I ignorant, a hypocrite, and fat...but now, apparently, I talk to myself. Weird, Pax! Who knows what's up with Blogger? Thanks for reading, tho!