Tijuana Stories and Tips

Two Great Shops On Revu

Casa del Angel Photo, Tijuana, Mexico

There are certainly enough stores on Revolución, to say the very least. But a couple stand out for special attention. But first a word or two about shopping on the infamous "Revu". (And be sure to check the more complete shopping entries in my TJ journal from ten years ago.

There are deals to be had here. There are also total screwjobs offered for your purchasing pleasure. The main thing you note is that tourists are shopping for the wrong thing. You don't want pure gold or silver (not that you're more likely to find it than a real Rolex). Sure, sure, somebody told you to look for the little .999 stamp. (Actually, given the location, it's probably just 666 upside down). Look... if a guy can make a necklace you want to buy, if another guy can make a Rolex for $20... then isn't it just possible they could figure out how to stamp any number they want on the necklace? Same goes for those "authenticity numbers" on Cuban cigars... if they're even showing them to you, it means they think you're too stupid to figure out anybody who can counterfeit a cigar and ornate box can probably manage to fake a little white sticker... and therefore they are probably conning you. On the other hand, there are some very nice examples of costume jewelry all around for very cheap.

The value of handicrafts and art, of course, are all in the mind of the beholder. But you are likely to find good values on leather goods. Saddles, gym bags, dog harnesses, caps and jackets with your favorite NFL or NBA team on them. And these prices get better as soon as you start walking away.

Which brings me to the most immediately noteworthy factor of shopping here. The street swarms with some really sleazy creeps out to dominate you into buying their crap. I see people buffaloed by these jerks, I see guys literally grab little Japanese girls by the arm and drag them into a store. Don't let them steer you, don't let them block your passage, don't let these assholes touch you! For chrissakes. They are not being warm friendly Speedy Gonzales amigos: they are playing a game of control and using their physical touch and your inexplicable reluctance to insist they keep their damn hands off you to bend you to their will. It's their living, but more importantly their whole ego and reputation. In Mexican business, money gained is always second to who is most "chingon"... who bends the other guy over.

You look at something, they swarm you. Tell them you don't want their help. If they persist, leave. If it's something you really like, come back later and tell them if they don't let you shop in peace you're leaving for good. There are plenty of other shops selling the same junk.

If you get interested in something, they will haul it down, unfold the blanket, rush up with twenty boots, etc. This is to make you feel obligated. Don't buy in. If you are concerned about something being real wool or cotton they are probably lying about the content. Offer the lighter test. Tell them you will touch a lighter to a thread. If it flares up, you'll buy it, if it melts you won't. But your best bet is just to move on, check it out, make up your mind what you want, then come back to drive a bargain.

And don't worry about getting the lowest price ever recorded. I see people proud of buying something for ten bucks, then bummed out when a fellow travelers shows one they got for nine (or so they say). Who cares? It was a good value to you, so you bought it. Enjoy it.

Whew... just had to get that off my chest. I use stock prods and military tear gas spritzers myself. Now then, places worth a stop-in. Two located in the strip between Caliente and Cesar's (though on the other side) are Casa de Angel and... more importantly... Hand Art. Neither have outside barkers neither will pressure you (that tells you something right there, huh?)

Casa de Angel specializes in top end handicrafts. Top end of quality and uniqueness, that is. A glance tells you that this is different from all the schlock. They have a sort of zoo theme going: leather elephants and tigers, life-sized paper mache lions and giraffes, tropical fish... but also some cool/cute Mexican folk art including a great collection of Day of the Dead figurines - Morticia dolled up in wide-brimmed hat to marry her top-hatted barebones lover, sort of thing.

On the East side of the street at 1021 Revolucion. Worth a look for stuff you won't see elsewhere. I'd say that the single most visitable store in Tijuana is Hand Art, right up the street at 1040. You get more for your buck here: more memorable gifts, more cherishable keepsakes. What they sell is embroidery. Even macho guys get off on this stuff. They have gorgeous blouses, unbearably cute little dresses, sumptuous tablecloths - all hand embroidered at prices that are ridiculously cheap by US standards. English spoken, too. Don't worry about little girls going blind from their needlework - purchase of labor-intensive crafts helps support village people (no, not those VIllage People) who need the money.

And run by good, sensible people who speak both English and Human. If you only hit one shop, check out Hand Art. Right by the statue of the Lumpy Doughboy Holding His Dead Gingerbread Sister God.

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