I love shopping in El Segundo Barrio. In the 1980s, I used to buy big bows for my hair. In the 1990s, I used to buy playeras, t-shirts, with Aztec figures on them. As I grow older, I no longer have the need for things. Now, just the experience of walking through the shops with their arcangels and booty mannequins. Looking at the colors and variety of cositas give me joy.
Here are some photos from my recent visit to El Segundo. From its beginning, the barrio was filled with small businesses catering to the Mexican immigrant population. Today, many of the stores are owned by Korean business people who are trilingual.
The majority of goods are made in China, including those that appear to be Mexican-- small bags with the image of Frida Kahlo or those made with fabric that mimics the traditional fabrics of Mexico.
The relationship between Mexico and China is hundreds of years old, going back to the colonial period. The first shipload of Chinese goods arrived in Mexico only fifty years after the Spanish gained control of the New Spain. In recent years, Mexico has started to import the chile de arbol, once an important product of Mexico, from China.
It was a bittersweet shopping trip, finding bargains while thinking of the workers who are paid so little that I could buy a wallet or a small purse for $1.
Esparza Grocery store, turn of the 20th century, S. Stanton and Fifth Street. Courtesy of Digie, El Paso Museum of History.