Playing Chicken

“A beautiful rebozo for the Mrs., Señor?”

“How much?” The wife braces herself. She expects her husband to try to take advantage of the man.

“It is made of silk and this is the one typical to the state of Jalisco. For you, today, fifty dollars.” He offers the woman the rebozo neatly folded into a floppy square.

“I’ll give you five bucks.” The man reaches for his wallet. The wife immediately  removes it from her shoulders. Embarrassed, she hands it back to the salesman.

“Pero señorrrrr…” He stretches out the rrrr. “THIS is the most famous of all the rebozos, the one every woman wants, the one they call rebozo de bolita.” He is very careful not to refuse the offer outright or appear insulted. That is not in the game. To pretend to cut off the transaction or that you are above the ethical concerns here… nope, that is not part of the game.

It is the political game of neighboring countries where the Gross National Product of one dwarfs the other and the per capita income, well, shoot, it could sustain several dozen families in the other. As with most people who see this inequity within their own extended families, resentment becomes an issue. Civilian Americanos arrive with lots of dollars and either thoughtlessly display or intentionally flaunt their wealth in expensive jewelry, new cars and brand name clothes. Military personnel in their civies walk with their I could buy/squash you, if I wanted to… bully attitude of so many young soldiers stationed along the border. But the Ugly American isn’t alone in this game. Remember? It is a game and there IS another side.

That side belongs to the Mexicanos and after decades of border economy brinksmanship, they play it well. What other explanation is there for border towns, poor as they may be, to have survived so long? The point of the game is to see who can get monetarily screwed the most and whoever gets screwed the least wins. The game is actually quite sophisticated and experienced players know that when regateando or haggling over a service or piece of merchandise, they are actually entering into an agreement, indeed, a contract to push themselves and each other to the limits of what is tolerable, in order for the seller to … well… make the sale with the highest profit margin and the buyer, of course, to make the purchase for the price closest to or even below “fair market value”. This game is played at all the Curios Shops even El Maya de Mexico, the classiest one where local Mexicanos go to purchase real silver goblets, real gold earrings, and real Talavera pottery not the fake stuff on the main drag.

But the rebozo the husband wants for his wife, the one that is worth thirty dollars, but the salesman will take fifteen because he paid ten for it, that will go home with his wife. It always does, because here, most people know how to play chicken.


“Where else are you going to find a hand-made item like this around here, eh?” He offers the woman a close up look at the exquisite work. “No. You would have to fly all the way to Jalisco for something like this.”

The woman takes it and drapes it over here shoulders, again. “It IS beautiful, “I say twenty bucks, dad.” The kid is learning.



“Twenty-five. Take it or leave it.”

“Twenty-five. Muchas gracias, Señor ”