La Tienda means “the store” in Spanish. In Mexico, la tienda is usually a small neighborhood store that sells most of the things people need. There’s still one every few blocks in Mexico just as there were a generation ago in most cities and towns in the States.
When I was a kid growing up in New Orleans our tienda was Saladino’s just a couple of blocks from our house. It was snuffed out by mass culture before I made it into middle school. We used to buy candy there just like I see kids doing at tiendas here in Mexico. Those kids I see now probably won’t appreciate their little neighborhood tienda either until they’re older and it’s gone.
I love going to tiendas, just looking around at the wide range of objects for sale that have made it through a Darwinian “survival of the fittest” economic sieve. You find mostly grocery items; but tucked away in there you’ll see super glue, hanks of nylon cord, hair dyes, mesh shopping bags, medicines, and on and on. And it’s all shoehorned into a space the size of a McMansion’s bedroom.
Tiendas service a customer base small enough that you can still get store credit. Your tab is handwritten in a notebook; they know who you are and where you live.
My tienda is about a block from our house. It’s called El Indio, The Indian. More often tiendas are named after the owner with the English words “Super Mini” in front of the name. So it’s no surprise El Indio is usually referred to by the first name of the owner (Leo’s) by most of it’s customers.
Leo’s is open early and closes around 11 at night. If you hit it at the wrong time, checking out is like traffic in India, crazy and chaotic but some how it flows with stops and starts. Often, you’ll need to jockey for position at the checkout between a sweaty laborer buying ice cold Pacificos after work and a wobbly grandmother buying fresh cilantro for her familys’ dinner. It’s civil, but the Summer in Central Mexico in a tienda is a toasty place to be and most shoppers are keen to get somewhere cooler.
Because a tienda is usually close to your house it functions almost like a pantry – that’s a block away. You don’t really need to keep lots of supplies at home since whatever you might run out of is only half minute away. So you wind up going to the tienda on almost a daily basis.
Which is fine by me.