Compra Venta

I’m sitting at a booth at a window on the third floor of the Mercado Cuahtémoc, across the street from the cathedral in downtown Juarez. Sunlight filters in through streaked glass and dirty drapes. This morning the temperature was below freezing, and now it’s not. The chips are free and the salsa’s hot. When the waitress brings my posole, I order a beer, a Tecate Light.

It’s just past noon on a Tuesday, still early for lunch, and vacant seats outnumber diners four to one. Somewhere across the big room, booming off the concrete floor, a stereo plays Journey-esque rock en español, competing, at frequent intervals, with the barkers recruiting new arrivals coming up the stairs.

My meal, beer included, costs 80 pesos, less than five dollars at today’s exchange rate of 17 pesos to the dollar.

compra ventaTwo years ago the dollar traded at thirteen. At seventeen pesos to the dollar, a margarita at the Kentucky Club, the most expensive bar in downtown Juarez, costs about three dollars.

The devalued peso is a boon to American shoppers in Juarez, but a curse for the El Paso shopkeepers who depend on Mexican customers.

Our local pols and their private sector buddies like to act like they make the sun come up in the morning, but really El Paso is tossed around by things we can’t control. The national defense budget. Immigration, and immigration policy. Labor costs in China.

Chaos theory holds that something as seemingly insignificant as the flap of a butterfly’s wings across the globe can have unpredictable effects on complex systems. Closer to home we barge along like blindfolded drunks.

In words familiar to every Twelve Step alcoholic, we need to recognize the difference between the things we can change and the things that we can’t.


  1. Great post, Rich! There are many positive directions El Paso can take, one of which is recognizing the multifaceted potential of creating a bond with our sister city Juarez. Both of us need a re-branding and I hope it comes in a form that includes both cities as one great bi-national community. This would include the arts, both traditional and contemporary, cultural themes, food, entertainment, and of course business and economy as always.

  2. I agree with Dianna, and with Rich! We have been missing so much over the last several years, with the increased difficulty in getting to and from Cd. Juarez, which has pretty much led to it being ignored by most of El Paso. Maybe we should push the federal government to dump the Patriot Act, and open the border, at least to the extent that it used to be. You remember, no passport needed, just declare your citizenship?

  3. I haven’t been to Mercado Cuahtémoc since I was a kid when my parents would take us to Juárez to get el mandado and eat flautas. That posole sure looks good and merits a return trip. Rich, by any chance do you know the name of the establishment where you partook?

    1. Los Delfines? El Delfin? Something like that.

      There are only two restaurants on the third floor these days. The one I went to is on the south side.

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