It’s chilly at night in San Cristobal, Mexico, and I don’t have a lot of heavy clothes. As budget slow travelers, we often pick up whatever outerwear we need at the local market or second-hand store and then get the used stuff laundered, or wash it ourselves if our Airbnb rental has a washing machine and dryer.
But jeans are a little different, as my lady friends will understand. You gotta try them on, and in a flea market-type setting, there’s no way to do that. Also, they may not be clean. Women in Mexico wear tight jeans – and I mean tight. I wanted to try on a clean pair. That meant I needed a rare bargain hunting adventure in retail stores.
The first challenge was the style here in Mexico. As I mentioned, the style here is to wear jeans super tight – so tight that they look like leggings. I’m in Chiapas right now, but it’s the same style in other places I’ve visited: Quintana Roo, Jalisco, Oaxaca.
I don’t understand how women in hotter climates around Mexico can wear these. I couldn’t do it. In fact, I couldn’t do it if the temperature was over 70 degrees in San Cristobal. Maybe it’s my hot flashes.
The second challenge was the cut. Add a few inches of material over the stomach area. Jeans have two, three, or four buttons on a higher waist than the cuts of jeans I’m used to. I was a bit surprised when in my first store I tried on pants that reached to my belly button.
Another challenge was sizing. International size charts online that I found convert sizes for the US, UK, Italy, Japan, France, Australia- nothing for Mexico. So, a friendly clerk sized me up and suggested a size, and she was right. The sizes in stores that sell jeans in Mexico – or at least in San Cristobal – run from three to 13. The sizing reminds me of junior sizes in the U.S.
The over-the-belly-tight-everywhere style was surprisingly flattering on me. I almost lost my vain head and bought a pair because they looked good. But they weren’t exactly comfortable and at 260 pesos, or about $14 USD, I wanted a cheaper deal.
I had nothing else to do that rainy afternoon anyway, so I continued on, with an occasional stop when it rained hard to watch people live their lives in San Cristobal. I observed people simply doing their thing. It’s not lost on me that especially in this area, one of the poorest states in Mexico, I’m lucky to be able to afford a new pair of jeans.
A few blocks behind the local market, and I was the only gringa in sight. I knew I would score a new pair of jeans on the cheap in this area. I came upon a department store named “Granda” and I hit gold in there.
On the second floor along the far wall were stacks new jeans with discount tags. A clerk helped me find my size. (Retail stores have extremely attentive clerks in Mexico – it’s a good job to have here.) The jeans in the discount zone were not the newer trend with high-cut waists, but I don’t care. The price was right. Just 99 pesos, or about $5.50 USD. I bought the first pair I tried on. Mission accomplished!
I’m getting better at traveling light — and on traveling cheap. I won’t feel bad about ditching a pair of cheap jeans when it’s time to head back to the beach in a couple of months.