The best single word I know to describe Barra is “disheveled”. Everywhere I walk there is rebar sticking out of the top of the buildings’ structure as if it grows there naturally. I’ve puzzled over this. Maybe it’s just part of a “mañana” culture: tomorrow enough money will come in to put on the next story. Or maybe it’s optimism that a house is never finished; it’s always awaiting another child for an addition.
As a few of these pictures illustrate there appear to be no electrical codes, The wiring hung from telephone poles is an overhead rat’s nest. It’s best not to look up. It looks like someday soon it will all fall down — and then get fixed with bailing wire. Additionally bare electrical wires that you know you should not touch are connected together without plugs. There appears to be no standards. Yet I haven’t heard of a single house fire. How do the Mexicans accomplish this?
Barra grew up haphazardly – bounded by water on three saides — and adapting to population growth and commerce one cement block at a time. Every thing you don’t need is for sale within a few blocks/streets. It’s a product-based craft economy (there are no storefront service businesses). Everything for sale is aimed at the women. All storefronts are tightly-squeezed, family-owned cubby holes. Often you have to wait for someone to exit before you can squeeze in.
The entire town is one disorganized Mall of America. And like most malls there is no logic to storefront locations. There are no signs to assist you (I hate this about malls). or clues to help your random wanderings. There is no yellow pages, and streets have names but no one know them because there are no street signs. You just have to wander around lost until you discover the product you are looking for. Fortunately it’s all at street level.
You gradually learn a few favored locations by good fortune or referral. The OXXO stores are the equivalent to 7/11 in the US. and use the same junk food business model to lure kids into the candy section. And there is one, maybe two, ATM machines in town.
In the center of town, seemingly oblivious to the rampant commercialism, is a large church. Religion and commerce are either in peaceful co-existence or perhaps each is oblivious to the other.
Whether you’ve come to buy a condo, provision your boat, have a dinner while watching the sun set, shop, swim, or just wander around lost like the rest of us, you are always welcome and treated in a respectful manner.