Why aren't there more thrift stores in Mexico?

Having just returned from a birthday trip to Mexico, I found myself pondering the question – Why aren’t there any thrift stores in Mexico?  Mexico, with its extremes of extraordinary wealth and abject poverty would seem the perfect place for non-profit thrift stores and their associated programs to emerge.  So, I went about asking around about this, querying anyone who “got it” and here’s what I found out.

First of all, most Mexicans do not have the same habits of conspicuous consumption that we Americans do.  Duh.  So, they aren’t constantly buying, just for buying’s sake.  Makes sense on some level, but then you look around at the American exports of Super Walmart, Costco, and Sam’s Club and you have to wonder – where are all the hand-me-downs and throw-aways ending up?

I asked our kind tour guide, Angel Flores, what happens to that shirt that you no longer wish to wear anymore or that your kids outgrow, and he explained that it will either get donated directly on the street to someone who looks like they need some help -0r the Church will get a donation and distribute to the needy in their parish.  OK, I get it – so they just eliminate the middle man (thrift store) and the Church becomes the non-profit distribution center.

But, because thrift stores, like Goodwill and Salvation Army, etc. do so much good for the community, I have to wonder why they never considered opening up shop there and providing their services to our needy neighbors to the south.  I think this calls for a Google search to do more research.  Pause.

So, it turns out that Mexico does benefit from thrift store programs.  Goodwill (Industrias de Buena) and Salvation Army (Ejército de Salvacionare) are there helping the needy population.   And, with a population of over 107 million people and many people only earning around $8 per day, there is a great deal of need.

Through the Salvation Army shelters, local church pastors collect a small fee and run weekly “street bazaars” (like our thrift stores), but the shelters they provide for the poor still struggle to find funds for basics such as laundry money to wash the many blankets.

In Mexico City, where the metropolitan area is the second largest in the world with a population around 26 million, the Salvation Army provides programs for women and children, a mental health clinic, a men’s shelter and a weekly street ministry at a pediatric hospital.  And, they do have thrift stores.  There are two Goodwill Stores called Industrias (Industries) de Buena (of Good) – comprende? If you’re planning a trip this far south of the border, here are their locations:

Av. Álvaro Obregón # 178 Col. Roma Norte Deleg. Cuautémoc
México D.F. C.P. 06700
Tels. (01 55) 55-84-12-26

Calle 29 No. 126, Col. Maravillas, Cd. Nezahualcoyotl,
Edo. de Méx.. C.P. 57200
Tels. (55) 57-43-72-72, 51-12-36-63

Then, I found out about a little something called a “Paca” which translates to “used American clothing.”  These tend to be located in popular shopping areas or near mercados (markets).  Word has it that they tend to consist of “clothing donations that have been smuggled across the border to be sold for money.”  Whatever.  One of the things I most admire about Mexicans is their resourcefulness.  Yes, it arises out of need, and often a desperate one at that.

Having travelled throughout Mexico, I have found many things to admire about this country.  The Mexican people are hardworking, lovely and warm, and they have figured out their own second-hand distribution system.  Thrifty indeed.  And, I am glad to hear that they are also benefitting by the many programs that non-profits are providing for the needy here in the States.  But, just like in Mexico, there is still much more work to be done to care for the hungry and feed the poor.   So, keep shopping at thrift stores and keep donating your unwanted goods.  During this week of Thanksgiving, it’s good to remember we have so much to be thankful for, and we have so much to share.

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  2. This article is really great and well written, I’m Mexican, and the clothing we don’t use anymore passes on to a relative or to any needing person that goes house to house asking for food or clothing.When we don’t see those people we take our clothing to the bazar in fact so it’s not that different.

    1. Hi Sarah:

      Thank you for your comment about thrift stores in Mexico. I didn’t know that about the bazaar. I’ll have to look for one on my next visit to Mexico.

      Happy Thrifting,

  3. Hello Mimi
    You forget also that in Mexico there was a swap meet style purchasing industry established since prehispanic era, we call them “Tianguis”.

    Tianguis, handle many parts of the thrifts, and these swap meets occur only once a week in certain areas, obviously each day is in different location, and not always is the same people selling.

    I actually have found on many instances 4 dollar Laptops just getting a nice sunbath in the streets where tianguis are established.

    Also, there is another “tianguis” which is usually many miles long, called “baratillo”, in cities such as Guadalajara (second city in importance in mexico) there is a baratillo that covers more than 4 lineal miles of tianguis 🙂 located in the East of the City each sunday.

    Also people that live in such areas, tend to take their items and sell them in their garage taking advance that more than 10k people will walk those streets during a sunny sunday.


    Take Care and pay some visit to the Baratillo if you ever go to Guadalajara
    Here you will find a video showing some parts of such swap meet “tianguis”


    1. Hola! Thank you so much for that in-depth reply. It is interesting to me how other countries recycle and reuse their items. I will definitely check out the Baratillo next time I’m in Mexico. Muchas gracias, Juancho!

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