My Piñata Emergency: Adventures in Hispanic Mall Shopping
Posted: Apr 21 2014
I needed a piñata. And not just any piñata, no Party City would do. I wanted something especial. So I did what any red-blooded, smartphone-addicted Latina would do – I googled “local piñata store.” No sooner than you can say fiesta, I was bombarded with results for…wait for it…Party City. Drag. But wait! One entry stood out – Fiesta Alegria. It was a store catering to the fiesta-ing Hispanic community. A Latino Party City – of sorts.Sold.
Fast forward and my google maps route navigates me to the front door of Santa Fe mall. What appeared outside to be a quiet, downright lonely and forgotten strip mall was inside a bustling, thriving commercial center doing double duty as a communal gathering place. Cool!
I had to take a look around and began a stroll through the town. And, no, I’m not being overly nostalgic or metaphorically structural – the interior design of the mall was decorated with plastered walls ornamented to look like the stucco facades of a southwestern old town, complete with wrought iron railings for the second level ‘balconies’ and red tile roof overhangs.
Shops with a Twist
In between the decorated walls were shops catering to, well, everyone – men and women’s clothes, baby furniture, futbol jerseys representing every Latin American corner(though I didn’t see any Brazil), hair and nail salons, a radio station (no, really, 109 Que Bueno!), furniture, and formal dresses. Oh the dress shops! Magda’s was a site to behold – the flouncy, vibrant colors held court in their corner of the mall. No way could you pass by without imagining the telenovela-sized memories andquinceñera drama Magda must have witnessed during her tenure.
Virgin Mary Food Court
In a cruel twist of fate, next door to Magda's and all its body clinging and revealing wonder beckoned the food court. Counters displaying all the best in wonderful Latino fried goodness – churros, tortas to name a couple of favorites. Other goodies to be found include agua frescas, watermelon spear cups, mangoes sliced in decorative floral shapes, even a cevicheria with a futbol match showing on the large flat screen behind the bar. Oh, and what food court would be complete without a mural featuring the Virgin Mary?
This Ain't Your Usual Mall...
Growing up in suburbia San Antonio, I’ll admit I am no stranger to the shopping mall. Nor am I stranger to the Mercado. I was a typical tweener who happily spent the weekends wandering the mall, taking in all of its commercial splendors, food court dramas and arcade carpal tunnel-inducing video games. Yes, mine was a childhood well spent. Of course, now I’m loathe to enter a mall unless dictated as the only option left for making a necessary purchase.
Yet, strolling through this Hispanic mall, the wonder of it all came back to me. By the mere act of walking through a doorway, the world changed. From the ordinary world to the extraordinary creation of all the new possibilities available in the world. People milling about, people helping one another, kids playing on the indoor landscape all blended to cast the feel of a possible community – the possibility of harmony. And while the Latino population continues to be marginalized in many ways, this mall exhibits the community’s vibrancy. This Hispanic mall I experienced was like every other mall and yet still - a mall like no other.
And did I get the piñata? Oh yes, and it was glorious. Our fiesta was indeed alegria.
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