Thursday, February 07, 2013

oriental melaque

I love change.  It is always worth a laugh or two.

Take Mexico.  I was introduced to the country in the early 70s when I was stationed at Laredo for flight training.  I made quite a few incursions across the border as a tourist.  And one unplanned airborne incursion during a training mission when I noticed the Rio Bravo was on the left wing of my aircraft rather than on the right wing.  Where it should have been.

Those were the days when informed folk would tell you what to stuff in your trunk for a trip south.  Because some goods simply were not available in Mexico.  Partly due to Mexico's then-protectionist trade policy. 

Auto parts topped the list.  Most of us carried around enough auto parts to build an auxiliary car.

I still hear people (usually older guys) slathering on now-outdated advice.  "Air filters.  Keep a couple extra in your car.  Can't get them there."  Completely ignoring the fact that Mexico is now the fift largest manufacurer of auto parts in the world.  And the largest exporter to the United States.

If you follow Old Coot advice, you will undoubtedly be carrying coals to Newcastle.  The filter will probably have a "Hecho en Mexico" stamp on it.

Living in Mexico was once a full immersion in the local culture.  Anything in the local stores was the type of product that had been there for decades.

Not so any more.  The Mexican middle class has demanded the same access to consumer goods shared by their brethren in the United States and Canada.  There are large Mexican supermarkets.  Walmart.  Office Depot.  Costco.  Sam's Club.

There are even some local commercial gems.  The nearest "big box" stores to me are an hour away in Manzanillo.  But there are some goods I can get in Melaque that I cannot find in those stores.

Thanks to the brilliant entrepreneurial skills of a local young man -- Alex.  He owns a small grocery store -- Hawaii.  His offerings are as exotic as the store's name. 

His fruits and vegetables are always good.  But most people shop there because he sells items it is difficult to buy elsewhere. 

Ham steaks.  Pastrami.  Three-year old smoked Tillamook extra sharp cheese.  Miracle Whip.  Sweet hot mustard.  Kettle Chips.

And an entire aisle of Asian foods.  He told me yesterday that he and his wife are learning to make sushi.  He was also my source for the cooking suggestion of grating that rare aged smoked cheddar over pasta.

Such access does not come cheap.  I made Hoisin chicken two days ago.  Using up my supply of sesame oil, rice vinegar, and soy sauce.  Alex had all three.  At a price.

Soy sauce: $40 (Mx) -- $3.15 (US)

Sesame oil: $55 (Mx) -- $4.34 (US)
Rice vinegar: $34 (Mx) -- $2.68 (US)

I should note all three are small bottles.  No Costco portions for sale at Hawaii.

This time of year it is easy to jump to the conclusion that the store caters only to the winter tourist crowd.  That is the prime market for about two months.  The rest of the year, the Mexican middle class tourists that come to Melaque make up the bulk of Hawaii's trade.

One thing Alex does not sell is auto parts.  I suspect if he thought there was a market in air filters, they would be on his shelf.

At least, I no longer need to worry about inadvertently violating Mexican air space.

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