Antigua, Guatemala’s third capital and most important tourist destination is a daily display of oddities and curiosities. There are Mayan women in their colorful native dress talking on mobile phones while dazed and pale groups of cruise ship passengers are herded from one destination to another, often led by a guide wearing a crown of gaily colored feathers. One of the nearby volcanoes, Fuego, usually emits a few white puffs of smoke and ash.
For those of us who live here, and shopping for the basic necessities of life, there are three choices: the small corner tiendas aka mini-stores, the sprawling native mercado, for fresh fruit, vegetables and pirated DVDs or there’s Antigua’s only super market, aka La Bodegona.
Located on the west end of 4th and 5th calles (streets), there are two entrances and neither is marked by any kind of sign other than a steady parade of people bearing bags of groceries from within. The occasional lost tourist might find it and it’s also a good place to run into friends. Yes, the store is out of that article this week and yes, they’ve moved stuff from that area to over there. There seems to be a subset of Marketing 101 that if something is successful, they don’t restock it.
Welcome to La Bodegona, ‘bodega’ being the usual word for store....ona? who knows? it probably sounded good at the time. Once inside, past the guard with a shotgun and a snarl in place, at one end there’s the electronics area, clothing and beach wear section, which leads you downward into the food section. And there’s everything from A to Z(ajo aka garlic to zapatos, aka shoes).Need sugar? there are massive displays of the sweet stuff, consumed in incredible quantities by the Guatemalans, more so than the staple of beans and tortillas. Need toilet paper? That section is larger than the liquor display.
What any of this implies is overshadowed by some of their recent marketing ‘projects.’ There’s a liter of Bacardi rum with a can of tuna attached, a large plastic bucket for mojito projects(rum attached)and the latest? Oreo cookies? Yes! buy a bag and get a free can of sardines! No one, not even the eldest of the ex-pats, can explain the concept. It’s just another Antigua ‘moment’ in La Bodegona, where the sections are marked off by hard-to-find cards, as in Area 3. There is, however, an Area 51 and like the famed USAF base in Nevada, ‘mysterious’. I found Area 46 today but after that, I was lost. There’s a bottle of Bacardi in the house, the can of tuna is detached and with another blender of daiquiris’ I’ll be lo mismo, (likewise).
Welcome to Antigua and La Bodegona.