Nickeled and Dimed

Most truths that are obvious don´t need to be learned, right?  And yet, every once in awhile, the obvious can smack me up alongside the head.

The first few months I lived here, I remember being very frustrated with every grocery store trip.  Often I´d forget to bring change with me–and change is crucial for any Mexican grocery store visit.  Ironically, not for paying groceries–large grocery store chains are the one business that always has change.  Never have I had a cashier at a large grocery chain ask, as I hand her a $200 bill, “do you happen to have change?”

100_5208  No, the change at the grocery store is for the baggers.  They all work on a volunteer basis– baggers are not paid by the store.  It used to be a job reserved for school kids.  The job market in Mexico being what it is, it´s next to impossible for students to get jobs.  The students that work as baggers have to have very good grades and they have to prove that they are maintaining those grades.  However, by only “hiring” students, baggers were thin on the ground during school hours.  Which is why we now see an army of senior citizens manning the bagging counters.  These senior citizens have been referred for the job though government social services.  They need the job, because their government pension either isn´t making ends meet or is simply nonexistent.  Therefore, whenever I show up at the grocery store without change and accidentally stiff the baggers, I feel terrible.

In many parking lots, men will rush up to help load the groceries into the car and to take the cart back to the store.  The parking lot attendants may be on the official roster of the grocery store´s baggers, or they may just hustle the parking lot, looking to pick up a few tips.  After already tipping the baggers, I began to resent tipping the parking lot attendants, as well.  It came to the point that I´d clutch onto the shopping cart in the parking lot and start yelling, “NO–I DON´T NEED ANY HELP!” as soon as I saw an attendant coming in my direction.

Then, one day when walking down Guadalupe Victoria, perspective smacked me up alongside the head.  On any given day, there are a number of people playing accordion, sitting in their wheelchairs, or holding babies and asking for handouts between the Alameda and the Plaza de Armas.  Now, I´ve heard all the pros and cons about why people should or shouldn´t give handouts.  Those stories wouldn´t be spread so widely if there wasn´t a bit of truth to them.  But sometimes I give handouts.  Sometimes I don´t.  I´m not looking for judgement here.  But on this particular day, I had quite a bit of spare change, and happily tossed a bit into someone´s cup.

That was the difference–I happily gave the panhandler the change, whereas a few days before I had been grumbling about the cart attendant.  Wait a minute!  That cart attendant was providing me with a service and working for his tip.  While there may be many reasons for the panhandler to be on the sidewalk, suffice it to say that she was not working.  My attitude transformed dramatically when this reality dawned on me.  I no longer grumble about the cart attendants.  Instead of cheefully tossing coins to the lady on the sidewalk, I now happily–without the least bit of resentment–tip the baggers and cart attendants.

And maybe I do still toss some coins in the panhandler´s cup every now and again.

But more often, I´m saving them up so I can tip the baggers and cart attendants well.


Apple Season in Los Lirios


IMG_1177  Despite being surrounded by desert, Saltillo is officially labeled a temperate zone (according to information at the Desert Museum).  This temperate zone extends into the neighboring county of Arteaga, making it a perfect area for apple orchards.  Have you noticed the huge crates of “Saltillo apples” at HEB?  Yep, they´re from Arteaga.  In this part of the country, it´s tough to get produce more locally grown than that!

IMG_1185  For an afternoon excursion out of town, consider Los Lirios, smack in the middle of apple country.  It´s about a half hour outside of Saltillo.  The drive itself makes the trip worthwhile, winding through the pine-covered mountains, skirting orchard-strewn valleys.

IMG_1183  There´s not much to the town of Los Lirios, but there are crates of apples for sale on every corner–honey, too.  The streets are narrow and more people drive through the town on the weekends than those streets were meant to handle.  So drive with patience.  Or, better yet, park and walk around.

100_5195  Restaurants seem pretty nonexistent in Los Lirios.  But they certainly have plenty of corner stores, so a light picnic lunch is easily found.  To be sure of a hearty meal, stop at one of the cabrito stands in the town of Arteaga first, before getting on the highway.

Enjoy the quiet, enjoy the views, enjoy the apples.



How does one find Los Lirios?

From Saltillo, take Fundadores out of town, towards Arteaga.  Keep heading east, past Arteaga (unless you decide to stop for cabrito, of course).  Head south on Highway 57, toward Mexico City.  After maybe 5km, take the exit to Los Lirios (watch out for northbound traffic on 57 when exiting).  Then meander through the valley for about 23 km.  Los Lirios is about 5 streets big, but the road goes straight through town, so it´s hard to miss.

If you continue on the road (turning left when the road dead ends in town), that will take you to the Cliffs of Insanity and (much farther along) to Cola de Caballo.  Those are also great trips, but deserve their own post.



Photo disclaimer:  while orchards are easily seen from the road, the orchard owners are not likely to be happy about random tourists wandering through their orchards.  We were invited to a friend´s orchard last week, which is why I was able to take the orchard pictures.

Cow Parade

100_5178Calle Guadalupe Victoria has some new tenants!

For a few weeks, Saltillo is hosting a “Cow Parade”.  This idea was begun in Switzerland and gained fame in Chicago 15 years ago or so.  Cities around the world have sponsored artists to paint these fiberglass cows and set them up on sidewalks throughout the city.

In Saltillo, instead of being interspersed throughout the city, they´ve been herded onto Guadalupe Victoria, within a block or two of the Alameda. Unfortunately, the art on these cows is not native to Saltillo.  Mexico City had these cows on parade in 2005 and they´re on loan here in Saltillo. They´re a fun addition, so swing by downtown before September 15th and see them!

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Saltillo´s Free Museums

A few years ago, the state government of Coahuila went off the deep end in their quest to educate the public, foster Coahuilan identity, or to simply showcase the treasures of this area.  Whatever their real agenda, we are blessed with a plethora of small, but well designed museums that are free to the public.   


  • The Serape Museum
  • Museum of Coahuilan Presidents
  • Mexican-American War Museum
  • Museum of Graphic Arts
  • Museum of Taurine Culture (Bullfighting)
  • The Mexican Revolution Museum
  • The Normalista Museum (Teacher´s College)

Beyond these museums, there are a number of free art galleries strewn around downtown.  

We´ll explore these museums and galleries in future posts!