Poco a poco, slowly, all the traditional and typical tiendas and tienditas, borough convenience stores, have been bought and turned into abarroterías de occidente, that’s what call them, although there is no set name, only a set style.
What does a tienda de occidente, western highland store, look like? Well, first of all, they are always tended my young maya workers from the highlands from Sololá, Quiché, Quetzaltenango or any of the departments of the west of Guatemala. The merchandise is neatly aligned in shelves, many times with repetition as part of the visual branding. These new kind of convenience stores have completely taken over all the traditional stores in La Antigua Guatemala and its villages over the past decade. Unlike the traditional stores, the selection of the merchandise is poor; often the offerings are poor and with a large portion of the store set aside for junk food. The prices are more expensive on these kind of stores as well.
In my humble opinion and observations, these tiendas de occidente are destroying the social fabric and community relationships created around the typical tienditas and their local owners. They are also ruining the diets by not offering simple natural things as butter, requesón (ricotta cheese) or the basic locally-grown fruit and vegetable offering.
Often times, the young Maya workers are brought here to live and tend the stores for extended periods of time, usually a month, before they are allowed to go back home to visit their families. Here, I assume, they are usually tending the business during their waking hours and simply going to sleep either behind the stores or at nearby apartments, which are simply sleeping quarters for many of the young Maya. This is also part of the new migrations of the Maya people within Guatemala, obviously, not under the best circumstances.
Without having hard solid proof of any of this, I also believe, many of these tiendas de occidente, if not all of them, are owned by the same owner(s), sort of like a convenience store chain.
What are your thoughts regarding these new tiendas de occidente? Have you noticed them or any thing about them? What else can you share?
© 2016, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.