Sombreros Tequila & Sin: Tourist Districts of Mexican Border Towns
GLANCING AT A WALL BEARING THE MESSAGE, “HASTA LA VISTA: YOU ARE NOW LEAVING EL PASO,” YOUR HEART BEATS FAST WITH BOTH EXCITEMENT AND TREPIDATION.
After a brief hesitation, you push through the turnstile, a turista in a new world. Instantly, a young boy selling Chicklets gum materializes at your side. Curbside, a driver swings his taxi door open, warmly beckoning you in with a wave of his hand. “Senor! I take you to the bullfight or to see some beautiful girls! Anything you want …
Along the street, eye-catching signs flicker to life. A World War II B-29 bomber (Figure 2.) seems to erupt from a liquor store’s fascade, as though the frenzy for drink was so great that an immediate airdrop was required to replenish stocks. Nearby, a voluptuous Latin lady is perched on the rim of a martini glass (Figure 3), kicking up her high heels to entice pedestrians into a nightclub, tinged in crimson light.
A curio store proprietor blocks the sidewalk, greeting you like a long -lost friend. “Amigo, a free shot of tequila just for coming in and looking around!” A furious bargaining session soon erupts and you leave toting maracas, tequila, and a garish sombrero that will undoubtedly find itself in the Salvation Army pile once you return home. This cargo exposes you as an easy mark for vendors crowding the sidewalks. You keep pushing through the bedlam, refusing offers of goods and food, as the frantic mix of activity, sights, sounds, and odors threatens to overwhelm the senses.
Then you are stopped in your tracks by something from a carnival sideshow -a burro, adorned with a large purple flower, booked to an elaborately decorated cart sans wheels. Quickly paying the fee, you climb aboard as the nearby mariachi band strikes up your request, the old folk song Guantanamera. As the entrepreneur readies his Polaroid, you affect a revolutionary pose emulating Pancho Villa. The resulting photo plainly tells the story. (Figure 4)
There’s more! To read the rest of this article, members are invited to log in. Not a member? We invite you to join. This article originally appeared in theSCA Journal, Spring 2003, Vol. 21, No. 1. The SCA Journal is a semi-annual publication and a member benefit of the Society for Commercial Archeology.
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