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lmaxine

Feb 20, 2005, 6:38 AM

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Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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HoustonChronicle.com

Wal-Mart eyes possibilities in Mexican 'magic town'


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Feb. 19, 2005, 10:22PM

Wal-Mart eyes another tourist locale
Giant has bought land in Mexican 'magic town'
By JEREMY SCHWARTZ
Cox News Service

PATZCUARO, MEXICO - Long before the Spanish arrived, the Purepecha Indians considered this place to be a doorway to heaven, a portal through which the gods descended to earth.

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Today, Patzcuaro is one of Mexico's most important domestic tourist destinations, a so-called magic town that lures thousands of visitors with its charming cobblestone streets, colonial architecture and a picturesque lake high in the green mountains of Michoacan.

But over the last month, this pueblo of 66,000 people has become something else entirely: the latest battleground in the Wal-Mart wars.

Just weeks after opening a store at a highly controversial location near the ancient pyramids of Teotihuacan, the retailing giant has set its sights on Patzcuaro, unleashing a torrent of worry and anticipation in this sleepy hamlet a five-hour drive from Mexico City.

For now, Wal-Mart officials in Mexico say they are only studying the feasibility of a Patzcuaro location.

But Chamber of Commerce officials in Patzcuaro say the Arkansas-based company has already bought land at the entrance to town, as has been widely reported in the Mexican press, and rumors are flying in Patzcuaro that Wal-Mart is in the process of getting the municipal permits it needs to build. With 695 stores under various names, Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in Mexico.

A group of merchants and community leaders has formed a group to oppose the project and pressure municipal and state officials, who they complain so far have made only vague statements supporting Patzcuaro's cultural tradition. The coalition also plans on linking with the National Front Against Wal-Mart, a Mexico-wide organization formed in January.

The group fears that the presence of the mega-retailer will destroy local businesses, causing increased emigration to the United States, and open the door to more chain stores and the big-box blight of U.S. cities.

"When Wal-Mart arrives, the identity disappears," said Escarcega Viveros Juan David, owner of a school supply and toy store in the city's historic center.

David's store is one of hundreds interspersed among hotels and sidewalk cafes in what were once colonial mansions in Patzcuaro's downtown. Much like Santa Fe, N.M., local law here dictates the appearance of downtown businesses, even regulating the size and color of storefront signs.

Elvira Rodriguez, a Patzcuaro journalist with the weekly Punto y Aparte, fears Wal-Mart will put mom and pop shops out of business and ship their earnings to the United States.

"Money comes into Patzcuaro from remittances (from immigrants working in the United States), but it goes right back with Wal-Mart," she said.

In 2002, Patzcuaro joined a list of 17 Mexican pueblos dubbed "magic towns" by the government, in a program designed to promote tourism and preservation. Beyond its colonial center and lakeside attractions, Patzcuaro is famous for its Night of the Dead celebrations, which draw thousands of sightseers to the dance, music and traditional altars of the Purepecha Indians.

Gerry Lewis, a Boston-area psychologist vacationing in Patzcuaro with his wife, said he worries that the introduction of Wal-Mart could mean the beginning of an unwelcome transformation.

"I think that it will ruin this city," said Lewis, relaxing with a book in the town's zócalo, or main square, widely considered to be one of the prettiest in Mexico. "I think people come to Mexico to get away from Wal-Mart and the big stores. You come here for this — the little shops."

But not everyone is dreading the arrival of Wal-Mart.

Alejandro Vasquez Cardenas, a columnist in the daily Cambio de Michoacan, says the opposition is led by a loud, self-interested minority and points out that the proposed site is removed from the town's historic center and near several less-than-flattering existing businesses.

Just south of Patzcuaro's main square is an outdoor market, itself a virtual Wal-Mart, where shoppers can find everything from avocados and mangoes to extension cords and pirated DVDs.

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jennifer rose

Feb 20, 2005, 6:54 AM

Post #2 of 24 (3997 views)

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Re: [lmaxine] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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Even Patzcuarenses have to eat. And if you've ever seen them in Morelia's Walmart, loading up on a month's worth of provisions, you'd understand why a Walmart in their direction will benefit them. Just for starters, there is no Gigante, Comercial Mexicana or other large super between Morelia and Uruapan.

The outdoor markets are quaint and interesting if you're a tourist, but the charm wears thin when you depend upon them for everyday shopping.

I'm sure the same folks whined when electrical lighting first came to Patzcuaro, just as their ancestors decried the internal combustion engine.


gpk

Feb 20, 2005, 8:32 AM

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Re: [jennifer rose] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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My best Mexican friend is from Coeneo, Mich. and has a lot of family in Patzcuaro. He says none of them would go to a Walmart because the mercados are fine for them and part of their social life. I guess we'll find out.


seannachie


Feb 20, 2005, 8:41 AM

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Re: [jennifer rose] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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I have mixed feelings about Walmarts. My wife and I do shop at them as well as Sam's Warehouse. In a small city close to where we live in Wisconsin a large Walmart (with the grocery section) was built within the past two years. There was a lot of opposition to it and one thing that bothered me was the efforts to hold meetings with city and county officials in private (Wisconsin has a public meetings statute allowing closed meetings only under limited circumstances) and the spectre of payments to officials, etc.

The construction of the huge parking lots causes problems with water run-off, possible damage to wetlands, etc. This is an issue with so many of these "big box" stores.

I do not have the perspective of those living in Mexico but do have here in Wisconsin; I wonder how many similarities there are? Does Walmart have a reputation for efforts to steamroll through the necessary permits? Will there be adverse effects on the environmental front? Will there be fair employment practices? What validity is there to claims they destroy the local businesses?

As I mentioned we do shop in Walmarts & Sam's but I will also admit to some guilt as I do know of the secret meetings, the environmental issues and the reputation Walmart has for employment practices - forced overtime, promotions of men over women, heavy use of part-time employees who get little or no benefits, etc.

The poster does differentiate between the tourists and the locals, to what extent do those of us coming from the U.S. and Canada influence changes in the culture? Would the Walmarts and similar come to these areas if there were not increasing populations of expats? Good questions.


jennifer rose

Feb 20, 2005, 9:09 AM

Post #5 of 24 (3972 views)

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Re: [seannachie] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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If tourists and foreigners never darkened Walmart's doors in Mexico, it wouldn't make the slightest dent in their sales. The Walmart in Morelia and the one in Patzcuaro most assuredly didn't factor the shopping habits of the 2500 or so Americans and Canadians resident in the entire state of Michoacan into the decision to set up shop here.

It's not fair to impute Walmart's sins in the US to its operations in Mexico. Walmart in Mexico doesn't seem to suffer any shortage of shoppers who are looking for value for the money.


Uncle Jack


Feb 20, 2005, 9:24 AM

Post #6 of 24 (3975 views)

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Re: [jennifer rose] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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"I'm sure the same folks whined when electrical lighting first came to Patzcuaro, just as their ancestors decried the internal combustion engine."


I would guess that they were no where near as pissed off as the Tarascans were in 1522 when Hernan Cortez showed up with his merry band. All in all, they probably would have preferred a WalMart.

uj


Bubba

Feb 20, 2005, 10:54 AM

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Re: [Uncle Jack] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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Had there been no Hernan Cortez there would be no WalMart. As the American military genius of recent fame opined in Viet Nam, sometimes it is necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.

If there is any truth to the notion of WalMart expansion into Patzcuaro (and/or other provincial Mexican towns with small populations) when they are already well positioned in what we Nortenos with our automobiles would consider nearby Morelia, then it is clear to me that WalMart is following a pattern it started in the United States. Let's call it second generation opportunity identification. In my hometown of some 7,000 people in rural South Alabama, WalMart recently opened to much hoopla when they were already well established in the metropolitan Montgomery area, with some 350,000 people, only 38 miles away. The octopus' tentacles are insatiable in their hunger in the same way an erection has no conscience. All of these profoundly disturbing swellings have finite existences and eventually peter out. That's why , on this planet, success must have a timeline as success breeds hubris and corruption.

You would know this if you ever wiped your butt with a Sears catalogue in a rural outhouse circa 1925.

Reverend Bubba

Things come and go, thank God.


seannachie


Feb 20, 2005, 11:40 AM

Post #8 of 24 (3959 views)

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Re: [Bubba] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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Reverend,

You say it well; yes, I am old enough to remember the Sear's catalogue and it's prominence in the outhouse.

I cannot speak from the perspective of someone living in Mexico but I do know Walmart is not exactly the poster child for employment practices nor concern for the environment nor being the wallflower at the dance to gain permits, etc. in those communities it seeks to construct new stores in.

Somehow I cannot fathom how these practices in the U.S. (and, likely, elsewhere) would not be operative into Mexico. Is Mexican government at the local level less likely to engage in closed door meetings to bypass public input? Are they less likely to threaten opposition groups with frivolous lawsuits to remove them as obstacles?, etc. I think these are called SLAP's - designed to thwart public opposition. I don't know; all I can relate to is what happened in a small community 20 miles away.

Well, back to poring over that old Sears Roebuck catalogue...I think it was the toys section.


seannachie


Feb 20, 2005, 11:53 AM

Post #9 of 24 (3955 views)

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Re: [jennifer rose] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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It's not fair to impute Walmart's sins in the US to its operations in Mexico. Walmart in Mexico doesn't seem to suffer any shortage of shoppers who are looking for value for the money.


Here's an interesting article from CorpWatch:

http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=9369

My quick reading of this article caught the following:

"Wal-Mart says that it treats its Mexican employees so well that the workers want no union, and that it pays its workers better than do its Mexican competitors.
However, in the United States, a unionized supermarket worker makes, on average, about $19 an hour. At Wal-Mart, where there are no unions, that worker makes about $9 an hour. In Mexico, for a newly hired Wal-Mart cashier, the pay stub reads about $1.50 a hour."

I also noticed the indexing of this article included Sweatshops.

So much for it's sins in the U.S. being exported to Mexico. I wonder what, if any, protection is afforded workers in Mexico who should be caught even suggesting unionization.


esperanza

Feb 20, 2005, 12:28 PM

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Re: [seannachie] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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The current legal minimum wage here in Mexico is 45 pesos the 8-hour day. According to your post, Wal-Mart's paying more than triple that at $1.50 USD the hour.




http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









Bubba

Feb 20, 2005, 12:46 PM

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Re: [seannachie] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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Seannachie:

I like that story about the WalMart assertion that their employees disdain unions. I grew up in the Deep South when the textile mills were moving there from New England and, by God, workers in the south disdained unions as well. And, guess what? That's why the textile mills moved there. What a coincidence. Later, those mills moved to Mexican border towns and then, even later, they moved to China. We all get what we deserve in the end.

This reminds me of my first lesson in integrity.

I had this lousy job in a bank in Mobile and decided that I should seek other opportunities. I sent out a bunch of resumes including one to the Regional Administrator of National Banks in San Francisco. Apparently (as I know now about these things) the agency had received an employment augmentation authorization at just about the time my resume reached San Francisco. I was hired almost immediately as these augmentation decrees are time sensitive. I was really proud back then but now realize that I would have received a job offer simply by the fact of having been alive at that point.

OK. So I packed up and moved from Mobile to San Francisco - a not insubstantial untertaking. When I arrived in San Francisco and went to the Regional Administrator's office to sign up and had gone through that protocol, the Nurse Cratchette who had had me sign all of the papers said, almost as an aside, "By the way, we in the 12th District have 100% participation in the U.S. Savings Bond Payroll Deduction Program and here are your savings deductions options." Well this was at the height of the Viet Nam war so I indicated I was not at all interested. She then indicated that, while this program was entirely optional, the regional administrator would be sorely vexed that he had lost the status in Washington associated with 100% participation. The implication of that remark was not lost upon me.

I thought I had an out. I was, after all, in my 20s and a smart-ass. I told her that I would be glad to buy the savings bonds in the name of Ho Chi Mihn c/o Hanoi, Viet Nam. She told me that that was fine. I could donate the bonds to anyone I pleased since their only goal was 100% participation in the program. Well. Since my little protest was not to be noted in the slightest by anyone whatsoever, I relented and bought the bonds for my own benefit. The hell with Ho Chi Mihn.

You want to build a WalMart in my Mexican town and you gonna consider me for a job but you want to know what I think about unions before we sign the deal. I say the hell with unions.

As Hoke said to Miss Daisy in that absolutely wonderful movie, "Lawsy Miss Daisy, you sho is a card. I do declare! Whooeee!"


(This post was edited by Bubba on Feb 20, 2005, 12:51 PM)


Marlene


Feb 20, 2005, 1:14 PM

Post #12 of 24 (3946 views)

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Re: [esperanza] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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Quote
The current legal minimum wage here in Mexico is 45 pesos the 8-hour day. According to your post, Wal-Mart's paying more than triple that at $1.50 USD the hour


Excellent point. And the employees here will no doubt have full benefits including medical coverage, Infonovit housing benefits, etc. The doesn't happen up north. The Mexican companies of these big corporations are altogether different as someone has already pointed out. Keep that in mind when trying to make a comparison. They are not comparible. The stock they carry is different too, as my visiting sister who wouldn't take my word for it found out after insisting she would find her usual arts and craft supplies in Walmart here.


Marta R

Feb 20, 2005, 2:19 PM

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Re: [Marlene] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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WalMart has another nasty reputation in the US: they move into a smaller retail area, drive the locals out of business, then close down themselves and move off to greener fields. As a result, the smaller retail area is left with no big box store and no local stores, either, hence not only do folk have to travel farther to make their purchases, all the jobs (from the original retailers and from WalMart itself) have disappeared out of the local economy. It's a good counterpart to Bubba's analogy about factories moving out of the unionized NorthEast into the South, then packing up their show and moving out of the country entirely.

WalMart has been taken to task for treating its employees poorly. Recently a WalMart apologist said, on television, that WalMart provides health insurance to its full-time workers. Perhaps, but almost everyone it hires is limited to a 28-hour work week, which is well below the minimum requirement demanded by most health insurance companies. Interesting coincidence. WalMart hires Human Relations specialists to help their employees out by telling them how to use the local county health agencies to get medical benefits, so the cost to the counties skyrockets. Bottom line: the price of toilet paper may go down, but your taxes go up.

They have gotten around mandatory overtime-pay laws, which don't apply to managers, by creating a zillion managers. You supervise two other stocking clerks, you get a fancy title -- but no raise in wages, and no overtime pay.

Yes, they offer goods at lower prices. They can do this by demanding that their suppliers sell to them at lower prices, which means that the suppliers have to cut their costs (usually by cutting wages, which is often the biggest expenditure for any company). WalMart itself offers rock-bottom wages ... eventually you end up with a market in which nobody can afford to buy anywhere but WalMart, and the only entity raking it in is ... guess who?

I can only imagine what kind of shenanigans they pull outside of the U.S. I agree with Marlene that Mexican corporate practices may be different from U.S. ones, but that doesn't mean that WalMart will have a huge change of corporate heart when they step into Patzcuaro, into that lot at "at the entrance to town" (what a charming way to enter a city!)

Marta


jennifer rose

Feb 20, 2005, 5:39 PM

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Re: [chrisnmarta] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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First, Mexico is not the US. Its federal labor law provides broader employee benefits than any union could ever conjure up. $1.50 USD/hour may not sound appealing to those with computers and Internet connections who use this board, but it's a pretty good salary in Michoacan, particularly for someone who only finished secundaria. It's more than my employees receive, and I think they work a lot harder than a Walmart stocker. Of course my employees get time off to run personal errands and mental health half days. But let's look at Victorino, down the street, whose epilepsy has kept him from a lot of jobs. He was thrilled to get a job at Walmart.

When Walmart came to Morelia in 1997, I swore and be damned that I'd ever darken its doors. But then there was a lightbulb sale, and lo and behold, they also had fresh fish, fresh cranberries and chestnuts. It was our fancy super, a notch about the others in town. (Comercial Mega has now surpassed Walmart in Morelia as the "in" store.) My maid asks me to pick up ramen soup there for her kids, because it's cheaper than the local abarrote. OTOH, the local abarrote's prices for the most part are the same as or less than Walmart's for most items. It just doesn't run the specials that Walmart does. There's such a tradition of Ma & Pa stores in Mexico that Walmart's not going to make 'em suffer. They still cater to a clientele looking for personal service, and, most importantly, who don't have wheels. The Walmart experience in Mexico is not like that in the US. It's just another store like Gigante, Aurrera, Chedraui or Comercial Mexicana.

I never in my life thought I'd be writing praise to Walmart. But then I also never thought I'd find myself agreeing with a columnist from Cambio de Michoacan, the left-wing newspaper, either. When you live in Mexico, you'll find that your attitudes change about a lot of things.

The people who live in Patzcuaro and surrounding areas have no Gigante or Comercial Mexicana. Their only option is to drive an hour to Uruapan or 45 minutes to Morelia. The consumers in Patzcuaro deserve a choice of toilet paper, a selection of produce, and an occasional sale just like everyone else. When it comes to filling a shopping cart and getting the best deal, thoughts about the vendor's corporate policy fly out the window.

From a tourist's standpoint, the native markets are swell. Heck, I like to wander through them, too. But when I'm in a hurry and just need to get groceries, I head to Walmart.


roni_smith


Feb 20, 2005, 7:01 PM

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Re: [jennifer rose] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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We just spent some time in Playa del Carmen. We shopped at a variety of places, enjoying the vegetabel and fruit store (they also had some canned goods, bulk spices, and a small refrigerator and freezer seciton). Good deals there.

We also did a lot of our shopping at a supermarket, San Francisco.

I like choices.

Ron
------
Planning for Mexico Move Blog



julian3345

Feb 20, 2005, 9:51 PM

Post #16 of 24 (3896 views)

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Re: [chrisnmarta] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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Just to add on to your excellent outline of the egregious business and labor practices of WalMart: A good friend here who owned a hardware store in the State of Washington was told by some of his sales reps re: the Walmart price squeeze on suppliers-- that many manufacturers create a "Walmart grade" product to deal with the famous Walmart refusal to pay what a good product actually costs to manufacture. The label may look the same, but the quality has been shaved if the product is on the shelf at Walmart...caveat emptor! I find it amusing that Walmart and Sam's are considered "high-end" merchandisers in some parts of MX while in the States I wouldn't be caught dead inside either one! I'd be much happier if Costco, Target and IKEA were the modesto standard here. Joan


Marlene


Feb 20, 2005, 9:53 PM

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Re: [roni_smith] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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At the risk of droning on...(that's British Canadian for boring you all) when you live here full time, it is real life, not a romantic vacation and you attempt to make your dollars go as far you can. One quickly learns this, well maybe not quickly but after about a year! LOL The politics, ooops I mean northern policies of Walmart, Office Depot, etc etc have no consequence here. Try to return an item you bought north of the border to a store here or vice versa... NOT...


(This post was edited by Marlene on Feb 20, 2005, 9:54 PM)


Texwheel

Feb 21, 2005, 8:20 AM

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Re: [julian3345] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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You may be right regarding Walmart and/or Sam's creating lower grade products to get a price advantage with manufacturers, but my experience has been very different. I have found brand name products in both stores to be of the highest quality...but I sure have not bought everything they sell. One thing that Sam's...and, to some degree Walmart...do is package many products in larger than normal quantities therefore getting more total revenue from a sale, and they probably get a price break for buying huge quantities of unique large-quantity packs. Keep in mind, also, these people are the greatest experts in high efficiency shipping and warehousing, and they seem to accomplish that internationally, also.
Tom Williams
Georgetown, Texas
Texwheel@aol.com


elgringomudo


Feb 22, 2005, 1:42 AM

Post #19 of 24 (3836 views)

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Re: [jennifer rose] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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First, Mexico is not the US. Its federal labor law provides broader employee benefits than any union could ever conjure up. $1.50 USD/hour may not sound appealing to those with computers and Internet connections who use this board, but it's a pretty good salary in Michoacan,


True. The number of Michoacanos in Chicago is amazing, they're here for jobs that are lacking in Michoacan
,.. So is the number of huge, US plated 4X4 pickup trucks in Michoacan that are a constant threat to the lives of pedestrians.

That's nice that some Mexicans get 150 peso per day jobs, but money to feed the WalMart machine comes from revenue that used to feed small entreprenuers who earned a lot more than 150 pesos per day running their small tiendas. One of the coolest things about Mexico is the amazing amount of down-home grassroots capitalism that goes on there, and which enriches the average Jose Seis-frios. Why support a company whose mission in life is to wipe out this phenomenon?



In Reply To
My maid asks me to pick up ramen soup there for her kids, because it's cheaper than the local abarrote.


The prices I've seen for Chinese noodle soup in Mexico are insane. Aldi's in Chicago sells noodle soup for a $1.25 per dozen packs.

Like the Mennonites, eventually Aldi will wander into Mexico. They're bible thumping Anabaptists who don't believe in "slot allowances" and other supermarket kickbacks, and don't peddle "name-brand" merchandise' although the stuff they sell is good. Whenever Aldi's opens up in Mexico, look for a huge line to get inside.And you'd better bring your own bag, there's no free bags at Aldi's.


In Reply To
But then I also never thought I'd find myself agreeing with a columnist from Cambio de Michoacan, the left-wing newspaper, either. When you live in Mexico, you'll find that your attitudes change about a lot of things.


How true.
Ned Carlson Triode Electronics Chicago,IL USA
Fighting bad sound and electronic ignorance since
1985 (sorry, folks, it's taking a little longer than I thought)


Miguel Palomares


Mar 3, 2005, 3:10 PM

Post #20 of 24 (3765 views)

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Re: [jennifer rose] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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I liked your astute comments about WalMart coming to Pátzcuaro. You are correct. Yes, there´s quite a bit of whining here. Self-serving claptrap. I hope it comes to nothing. I´ve lived in Pátzcuaro for almost five years. It´s a pain having to drive 70 miles roundtrip to go to a decent store. What we have available here now are stores with shelves and shelves full of rows and rows of canned chiles, canned beans, canned chiles, canned beans, ad nauseum.

My Mexican wife and I are eagerly awaiting that WalMart sign. Perhaps a nice, big Cinepolis multiplex will be on its heels. Then a Cafe Europa! We would giggle in utter delight. WalMart, after all, isn´t going to put the store in the Plaza Grande.

San Miguel has a good-sized shopping mall on the outskirts with, I believe, Gigante. I don´t see that the shops in downtown San Miguel have closed and shuttered. And Gigante is, well, pretty gigante. ¡Yahoo!

WalMart, come on down! The sooner the better.
From Tzurumutaro, Michoacan, "The Village of the Darned."
_______________________________________

The nuts and bolts of moving to Mexico:
http://michaeldickson.blogspot.com/
The dark side of living in Mexico:
http://mexicopeeks.blogspot.com/
Scintillating life in a Mexican pueblo:
http://tzurumutaro.blogspot.com/
http://tzurumutaro2.blogspot.com/


gpk

Mar 7, 2005, 3:16 PM

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Re: [palomares] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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A frined of mine has a sister and brother in law in Patzcuaro who own a fairly large grocery store and small dairy. They have decided to sell the business because of Walmart arrival.


Miguel Palomares


Mar 7, 2005, 3:48 PM

Post #22 of 24 (3709 views)

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Re: [gpk] Walmart in Patzcuaro?

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Their reaction, to put it mildly, appears a tad premature. The Gringo Behemoth isn´t even on the horizon yet.
From Tzurumutaro, Michoacan, "The Village of the Darned."
_______________________________________

The nuts and bolts of moving to Mexico:
http://michaeldickson.blogspot.com/
The dark side of living in Mexico:
http://mexicopeeks.blogspot.com/
Scintillating life in a Mexican pueblo:
http://tzurumutaro.blogspot.com/
http://tzurumutaro2.blogspot.com/

(This post was edited by palomares on Mar 7, 2005, 3:51 PM)


gpk

Mar 7, 2005, 4:31 PM

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Mexicans seem to know things before Gringos do.


Marta R

Mar 7, 2005, 4:45 PM

Post #24 of 24 (3696 views)

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Like the lessons of history, maybe.

Marta
 
 
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