by Jack E. George
If you are visiting Rosarito Beach and have a few extra hours to enjoy this friendly town, visit the ‘maze’: a labyrinth of delightful little shops that do not have an official name. You can find them by walking a few blocks north of the Rosarito Beach Hotel. They are immediately after you pass the El Nido steakhouse restaurant and right before you reach the Scotia Bank. Look carefully — there is a small placard outside that invites you in. If you look up and to your left, you will see the word, “Entrance.” The word is a bit faded, as is the placard. Chances are they are both original from when the shops opened more than 25 years ago.
Marino Ruiz operates one of the units. He explained that each ‘shop’ is actually owned. He said that he owned this particular unit where I looked at his remarkable ceramic pieces, and then he proudly pointed across the way to a number of dresses gently blowing in the wind. He also owns that business but rents the space. Marino has been at this location for more than 20 years. It has been in the family since the opening of the ‘arcade.’
Marino explained that most of his ceramics come from Jalisco, Michoacán, Puebla, and Oaxaca. He does not buy directly from the people who make the products. Instead, he buys from a ‘middleman’ who travels throughout Mexico selling these wares. His shop across the way offers many dresses for sale. They are all from the state of Guerrero. Again, they are purchased from a middleman although different from the person selling the ceramics.
It is interesting to engage in a conversation with the various owners. Each one is truly a unique individual with a great amount of knowledge and information, and owners eagerly and joyously share their knowledge with you. When you find an article you want to buy, enjoy yourself by offering a little less than the asking price. The shop attendants expect you to ‘haggle’ with them. So, do not be shy and chances are you will walk off with a real bargain. That said, remember that these prices are generally already excellent, considering the artisan handwork involved…so don’t be greedy!
Gilbert Mendoza owns a shop that has a variety of items for sale including dresses. His dresses come from Acapulco. Interestingly, none of the handmade dresses have tags inside indicating the seamstress. Throughout his shop you will not find two dresses made from the same material. Toward the back of the arcade Estella Lopez operates an interesting shop offering rocks and seashells. She has some elaborate pieces that hang from the ceiling. She buys her items from Guadalajara and Durango. She has been at her business for 25 years.
There are a number of ‘jewelry stores.’ One is owned by Peter Fernandez. He has a variety of rings, necklaces, earrings, and so forth. He actually works in his Rosarito Beach shop for four months a year and then hires assistants to operate it the other eight months while he returns to Mexicali. He operates more shops in his hometown but he likes to get away during the soaring heat of summer.
I asked each shop owner if anything sold in the arcade has products made in Rosarito Beach. I was then directed to the shop of Francisco Vazquez. He offers a huge number of clay art pieces and each one is handmade in Rosarito Beach. He was proud to let me know that he created the placard that stands in front of the arcade. He even has a name for his shop, and a business card, “Curios Leo.”
Once you enter the arcade you will be so overwhelmed, with the ‘feast of the eyes,’ that you will not know if you want to turn left or right. You probably will feel like you are in a maze. It really does not matter because it is truly a bit of Old Mexico right here in Rosarito Beach. The thing is, there are 198 different ‘units,’ although the placard out front says there are more than 200. You can really find most anything here. If you want a beautiful piece of jewelry from Taxco, all kinds of leather goods, a great Mexican painting, dresses, ceramics from all around Mexico, or thousands of other items, you will find them here, all in an area of less than one block.
This is truly a signature Baja day-trip! What is the coolest thing you’ve bought on your vacation? Let us know at Baja.com.
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