Viva! With one caveat.
Wal-Mart plans to open its first Hispanic-focused supermarkets this summer in Arizona and Texas as the largest US retailer continues its drive to expand its dominance of the US grocery business. The pilot stores, named Supermercado de Walmart, will open in Phoenix and Houston in remodelled 39,000 sq ft locations occupied previously by two of Wal-Mart’s Neighborhood Market stores.
The retailer said that the stores were in “strongly Hispanic neighbourhoods” and would feature a “new lay-out, signing and product assortment designed to make them even more relevant to local Hispanic customers”. The staff will also be bilingual. Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club warehouse store also plans to open a 143,000 sq ft Hispanic-focused store called Más Club in Houston this year.
Several leading regional US supermarket chains already operate Hispanic store brands, including Publix in Florida, which operates three Publix Sabor markets, and HEB in Texas, which opened a Mi Tienda store in Houston in 2006.The markets include elements such as cafés serving Latino pastries and coffee, and full service meat and fish counters.
Leading retailers are also pursuing Hispanic consumers online, with Best Buy and Home Depot having launched Spanish-language versions of their e-commerce sites in recent months. Eduardo Castro-Wright, the head of Wal-Mart’s US stores since 2005, has also been an advocate of testing new smaller, more focused formats, and raised the idea of turning the Neighborhood Market into a Hispanic-style bodega concept several years ago.
He has also developed Wal-Mart’s efforts to customise its larger Supercenter stores, which have been grouped according to differing community profiles, such as urban, suburban, Hispanic and African-American, with customized merchandise. A 195,000 sq ft Supercenter that opened in Texas last year included a tortilleria bakery, Hispanic foods and a larger selection of Spanish-language music and DVDs. Link
I have spent the better part of my life somewhere close to 'Hispanic culture'. My father spent his childhood in Mexico City. I learned how to make tamales when I was five years old. The summer of my 13th year I spent in a 'brasero' camp outside Salinas California picking strawberries and living in barracks. In my adult life, I have chosen to spend as much time in towns along the old 'Torquoise Trail' - Tucson, Albuquerque, Santa Fe and many others, as possible. My personal affinity to latino culture is something that goes to my very core. The Sonorran Desert is heaven on Earth to me. My genes come from there. When I dreamt of childhood things, I dreamed of Meso-America. I'll drive 300 miles out of my way to eat at a good Mexican joint and have many times.
It is my experience that most Mexicans are hard-working, family-oriented and very honorable people who have their priorities set better than most Americans of any heritage. The kindest acts of charity I have ever witnessed were by Mexicans. I have been hungry in a park and homeless and been invited by people who spoke only Spanish to share in their family feast and made more welcome than I have ever been by my own family. If I could move to Mexico I would. I know the history of Mexico and this country and the relationship between the two better than most. I was born on Cinco de Mayo.
All that said, I think catering to latinos with mercados is a wonderful thing! I have never seen a better supermarket than in Nogales AZ. Oh, what a glorious place! Mexicans are within walking distance and their money is tight. They shop like we all should - with an eye for a bargain and they demand quality. If you have never been in a 'carniceria', you have never seen what a good butcher shop should be. Mexican bakeries rival anything found in France. And the produce on display is beyond anything Americans can imagine. And the prices! Ay carumba!
So I don't have any problem with Wal-Mart doing this. I think it's a good idea and will help in many ways. I don't mind more Mexicans coming here and contributing. I do have a problem if they do so illegally. My philosophy is 'come on over, amigo', but get your damned papers and do it the right way - legally.
We will embrace you then. Si?