Just a few miles south of Pharr and McAllen lies the large Mexican city of Reynosa. At well over 500,000 residents, Reynosa eclipses McAllen’s population by about threefold. Many people are most familiar with Reynosa and the Mexican cities along the Rio Grande for infamous reasons: rampant crime, poverty, and maquiladoras. However, upon my visit, I noted that although conditions were noticably better on the American side, the criticisms of these cities are largely an overreaction promulgated by the American media. While, like many cities in any country, there were sufficiently visible examples of abject poverty, so too were there modern areas of the city with very typical, American-style conveniences including new subdivisions, convenience stores, big box, and even shopping malls. In general, the disparity between life in Mexico and life in the U.S., while noticeable, is not as significant as you probably think.
Since retail is our focus here, we’ll take a look at what Reynosa has to offer and consider comparisons to what we’re familiar with on the American side. In doing this, we hope to provide a brief glimpse into the parallel otherworld of Mexican retailing. Much like we’ve found with Canada, they have their own, unique chains and ways of doing things and it’s worth a shot to try and understand. However, several caveats: we’ve only been to Mexican border cities, and are aware that the interior is probably much different in terms of general conditions and offerings. Also, we don’t speak spanish (well, maybe un poco) so much of what we observed may very well have been lost in translation. That said, we’ll try to explain what we found, and add a new country to our mix in the process. Diversity is cool, after all.
Plaza Periférico is a very new, very modern enclosed mall on the far west side of Reynosa along the heavily-travelled main route to Monterrey. This route is also the major modern retail strip for Reynosa, and is full of fast food, big box, strip malls, and American-style chain restaurants. Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Office Depot, McDonald’s, Chili’s, Popeye’s, and HEB are all American stores with presence here. In addition to those are Mexican box chains and restaurants with which we are unfamiliar, including Sanborn’s department store, City Club warehouse store, S-Mart Grocery, Coppel Hidalgo, and impressively modern hypermarket Soriana. In addition, there’s even a new American-style brew pub called Sierra Madre Brewing Company. There are no less than three enclosed malls along or within a very close distance of this strip.
We’re starting with Plaza Periférico, which is at the west end of the aforementioned strip near the intersection of México Route 40 and México Route 2. Consulting Wikimapia, which proved as an invaluable resource for this non-spanish speaker in finding the retail strips in Mexico, Plaza Periférico was labelled yet not present in the satellite photo. So, we’re assuming it’s less than a few years old. Anchored by Soriana, Famsa (appliances), Cinépolis (a large multi-screen movie theatre), Woolworths (yes, that very same one), and a large food court, Plaza Periferico is your typical suburban mall. Most of the stores inside are Mexican chains we’re assuming, but many tenets of a typical American mall remain. For example, there are cars for sale parked inside, and the same kiosks were used to hock the same stuff: cable television, cell phones, and printer ink.
However, at the same time, there are differences too. In the parking lot, parking attendants rush over to you when you get into your car to assist you out of your parking spot. You back out, and they blow a whistle when it’s clear to proceed forward. Kind of interesting, yet I wonder why it’s necessary. To create jobs? The parking lots were no different or hazardous than those in the U.S. Perhaps they double as security for the lot because of more frequent thefts, and the parking assistance is just part of their job as well. The decor is pretty standard for a new mall, but the layout is a bit different. There are two large, circular courts at each end of the mall, and the anchors are sort of placed haphazardly throughout, yet the organization is efficient.
Take a look at the pictures of Plaza Periférico and the surrounding area, taken April 2007. Since, again, we aren’t very familiar with the spanish language, finding even internet resources about this mall didn’t produce much. So, we once again open it up to you, our readers, to fill in some of the details about this mall and the area in general.