My suegra (mother-in-law) decided that she wanted to sell vegetables from her front porch in rural Guerrero. I asked her how much profit she would like to make and we would work the numbers backward from there. “Fifty pesos per day would be great,” she says.
So I do some back-of-the-envelope calculations taking into account the cost to buy the merchandise, transportation, spoilage, the amount of pedestrian traffic past the house (the only kind there is since the only vehicles that pass by are the Coca-Cola truck and the garafón (water) truck, and the going retail price of veggies. I concluded that each passerby would have to purchase a kilo of something to make the business work.
Well, she wasn’t about to be dissuaded by something as trivial as mathematics so she decided to start the business anyway. Me, being the good son-in-law (and understanding the domestic tranquility concept) said, “OK, lets get started.”.
“We are going to have to have some way to display the wares,” she says. So I scrounged around the yard and found two old estufas (stoves) and an old door. Placed the stoves about 2 meters apart, laid the door across the stovetops and voila : ready to stock.
“We are going to need a bascula (scale).” So off we go to Petatlán to find one, and we did.
On the way out of town the lone trafffic cop motions our obviously from-out-of-town, shiny, black SUV over to the side. My wife is driving. He asks to see our temporary importation papers and we show them to him. He asks for my tourist permit and we show that as well. He then informs us that we are going the wrong way on a one way street. My wife immediately raises her voice to him and tells him he is mistaken and to take his phony accusations somewhere else. ” No saques su pistola, señora,” he says. ” Dame quince pesos para una coka y ya” (don’t take out your gun, just give me 15 pesos for a coke and get outta here). My wife rummages around for change in the ashtray and says, “Here, 12 pesos is all I have.”
She hands him ten , puts the car in gear and takes off.
“Tramposo,” says my wife.
“What the heck just happened?” I ask. “What’s he going to do,” she says, ” he doesn’t have a ticket book to write us a ticket, doesn’t have a car to take us to the police station, is too fat to run after us, and besides, ten pesos is enough for TWO cokes!” Dang, I said, do you always treat the police that way? ” No, not the Federales del Camino, you don’t screw with those guys, they will screw you back real hard.”
The next morning at 6 am we headed into town to buy produce from the trucks that supply the markets en el Centro. We loaded up with papaya, tomate, limones, cebolla (onions), aguacate (avocado), piña (pineapple), eggs, spices , chickens, lollipops, and headed back home. Put all the stuff onto our “storefront” and opened for business.
Since I was the only one versed in mathematics, which means that I was the only one who knew how to read the scale, I was volunteered to run the store. My suegra took care of things like selling the chicken. She had a small machete that she used to open cocos to cut the bird up: you want half a chicken? Whack! There is half. You want a quarter chicken? Whack! Whack! There’s a quarter. I decided that being a good son in law is probably a wise thing.
I got to meet and converse with a lot of interesting folks and, of course, work on my Spanish skills. I recall a conversation with the Pastor of the church. He was asking me how I liked Ixtapa. I told him that I actually preferred the outlying colonias, as, to me, Ixtapa seemed like a fantasy land. “What do you mean?” he asked with a puzzled look on his face.
I explained that a lot of Americans save their money for a year or two, then come to Ixtapa and blow the whole wad in 2 weeks living like kings. Then go home to their normal ‘go to work, pay the bills’ existence. He was quite surprised, he had assumed that the Americans ALWAYS lived that way, hence the motivation for the locals to go to ” otro lado” and get rich.
After nearly a week it was decided that the veggies would be sold a bola (by the piece) rather than by the kilo. That way it was not necessary to work the scale and others could chip in running the store. Business wasn’t that brisk anyway.
At the end of 2 weeks the Tienda de las Dos Estufas pretty much se acabó (folded), but we and the neighbors all ended up enjoying a really great big salad !