Gringo in Guadalajara


A giant Santa looms over Plaza Arboledas.
Mexico is a land of many promotions.  It seems every grand opening of a grocery store, tire center, mall or restaurant has a high likelihood of including some variety of balloons, piƱatas, dance music, giant clowns, roaming spotlights, people dressed in costume and a whole lot else.

At Christmas time, the city abounds with Santa Clauses, snowmen (a bit strange given that one's shirt is soaking from persperation) and colorful lights.  Of course, this is true in the United States as well, but it's a matter of degree.  For instance, one local mall celebrated the recent

A promotional blow-up doll apparently looking for a hug
Christmas with very large blow-up dolls of Santa,
stockings, snowmen and the like, all positioned on the roofs of various stores.  One truly gigantic Santa Claus (taller than a nearby three story building) stood in the parking lot.  Perhaps this would seem in proportion at the Mall of America or on the front lawn of the White House but this jumbo Santa stood at a rather mediocre shopping center with a grocery store and the usual selection of accompanying stores.

Spotlights are also big in Guadalajara.  One night I approached a roaming spotlight from a few miles away and was a little excited when I realized my path was taking me directly to the site of the festivities.  I expected to see some kind of major event...perhaps featuring Mexican movie stars or at least a Mariachi band.  But when I finally arrived, it turned out to be the opening of a Farmacia Guadalajara, a chain of drug stores in the city that one finds almost literally on every corner.  And there wasn't a movie star in sight.

It's hard to say if all these promotions are effective or not.  They do seem to arouse excitement and they are certainly popular with children.  One imagines (hopes?) that given the prices of 150-foot inflatable Santas, someone must have some evidence somewhere that they work.