Sunday, November 06, 2005

Architecture and Dining in Cuidad Juarez

Okay, I just got back from Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, on the border with El Paso, Texas. I know it is a border city but I was simply shocked how many American restaurants there are there. Not to mention Walmart, Sam's Club, etc. Carl's Jr., Burger King, McDonald's, Applebees, Denny's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Long John Silver's....and the list goes on and on! And one of the missionaries there told me that TACO BELL was all the craze in Mexico City when it opened two years ago. I mean, there are Taco stands everywhere that sell the genuine article, much better quality shells, etc., and they are eating at Taco Bell?

Don't get me wrong, I just ate at Taco Bell this weekend, and I like it, but not compared to the REAL thing. It amazes me. The reason he gave is that anything American is popular down there. And I have seen McDonalds in Rio De Janeiro as well as a few other things. But the abundance was surprising. Okay, so we share a border of several thousand miles, but still, it was a surprise.

We ate at Denny's (for some reason the missionaries wanted to) one morning and they have the same silly menu items we have here. The Slim Slam (Is it EL Slim Slam in Spanish)? Unfortunately, since I had the English menu, they did not give me the Mexican insert, so my breakfast was not authentic. That is a little disappointing because I always try so hard to eat authentic food wherever I go and experience the culture. Especially in this case, because I only had three days there. BUT it was still a good fellowship and meeting I had with Mexican pastors and the missionary during that breakfast, so a fair trade, I'd say.

As for the food, the mole with Empandas (?) was not my favorite. The sauce itself was just not something I am crazy about. I did eat a lot of it, but I just did not feel crazy about it. On the other hand, Huevos (Eggs) Rancheros I liked. I also enjoyed enchiladas and sopapillas. I enjoyed tacos as well. Great fresh tortillas. Good guacamole. Excellent Margaritas. Try the pina colada! WOW! Never had one before like that.

Cuidad Juarez was an interesting place architecturally. There were some amazing manses with huge gardens, surrounded by fences. There were some grocery and shopping centers similar to American ones, but most reminded me more of Brazil. More streets were paved than there are in Africa, though. But there were speed bumps everywhere. Apparently this is the favorite method of speed control. The other thing is that the traffic system is nuts and people do what they want anyway, so things get chaotic. But I will save that for another post.

Another thing that struck me was that Mexicans must just build on whatever land they can find because there were shacks that looked like they were in illrepair or close to falling down next to fancy new stores that looked brand new. I guess land is expensive and hard to come by. But yet there were whole empty fields in areas. It kind of surprised me to see so much mix, because usually I have seen it concentrated in Rio De Janeiro or Belo Horizonte or Accra, Ghana. Groups of similar poverty and groups of nicer buildings. Never so mixed. The other thing is that I was well aware that what I was reacting to might be considered a middle class home that just hadn't been painted or was not well maintained on the outside but was nice inside. So I honestly don't trust my own impressions.

Anyway, I did have a good time in what I assume is an upper middle class home. And went to the daughter's soccer game, which they lost 11-0. I came away with genuine Mexican art originals drawn by Carla, the middle daughter. She and Diana were so adorable! HE HE And fun to play with. I can always manage to bond with the kids first.

I will try and do a series of posts on my impressions from the trip. This is the first. Hope you enjoy it.


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