If they buy it, sell it, pues

Sometimes my Suegra’s friends give her bags of used clothing they don’t want anymore. This is something she loves. When she opens a trash bag full of used clothing, she looks like a niño on Christmas morning.

Some of the used clothing, Suegra uses for herself, the rest she brings back to El Salvador to give to family members or to re-sell at a profit. If you have something to sell, you just stick a sign on your house and you instantly have your own tienda; that’s one of the things I love about El Salvador. (My Suegra finds the concept of “zoning” completely bizarre. She can’t understand why I don’t make a living from home as she did, but I’m not sure my HOA would approve a hand-painted “Tracy’s Pupusería” sign stuck on the side of our house.)

A random house/restaurant in Chalatenango - 1999.

My husband’s childhood home has gone through various incarnations. It has been everything from a tailor shop to a one-stop pharmacy. (Guerillas apparently ruined the pharmacy during the war. Injured, bloody men took their inventory, using women’s sanitary napkins on their wounds.)

At one point Suegra also ran a liquor store. My husband remembers during one earthquake all of his family ran to the shelves and held them in place, their bodies pressed up against the clattering bottles of alcohol, instead of running outside to safety. I can’t imagine instructing my children to do such a thing, but had the bottles fallen on the cement floor and shattered, they’d have lost the only thing that was putting food in their mouths at the time.

These days, since Suegra spends more time in “Los Uniteds” than El Salvador, she can’t run an actual shop, but she makes decent money from re-selling stuff she buys here.

This morning she came to me with a lacy, silk negligee she received in one of those bags of used clothes.

“Qué es, Tracy?… It’s too small to be a dress, va?”

I suppressed a smile.

“Es un… vestido de cama,” I tried to explain.

“Vestido de cama?” she said incredulously, inspecting it. “But it doesn’t look very comfortable. How could a woman sleep in this?”

“It’s not for sleeping,” I said, hoping she’d get what I meant.

“And why did you tell me it’s for the bed, pues?”

“It’s that…It’s for the bed, but not for sleeping.” I paused but she just kept staring at me, so I went on. (Meanwhile my oldest son is laughing because he has already understood.)

“It’s a little dress to show your husband, but one takes it off quickly.”

Finally Suegra understood.

“Uy!” she said, inspecting the lingerie with disdain. She walked back to her room mumbling, “Bueno, but if the people buy it, I will sell it.”


  1. Hahaha, this story is hilarious! I get such a kick out of reading your posts, even though I’m 22 and don’t have kids or a Salvadorian husband (or a suegra, thank GOD!) it’s always interesting to hear another account of someone blending two cultures and learning Spanish outside of the classroom (which is exactly what I’m about to do.) Suerte amiga, and keep up the funny!

    • @ Kellypete – Thanks for your comment. I can’t wait to visit you back and see what you’re up to. “Learning Spanish outside the classroom” … Hmm, sounds like we will get along just fine :)

  2. I love it! I remember a family on my block in Colombia that had relatives visit them from Los Uniteds every couple of years and they’d bring with them used toys for us kids and we felt like we’d won the lottery. Not sure if they brought negligees with them (toys for the grownups, so to speak).

    I have to admit I kind of love your suegra at times. She reminds me a bit of my mother in her señora from the old country quirky ways (except the bad ways).

    Growing up, my parents also always had some sort of tienda in the house, whether it was selling homemade popsicles, eggs, cigarettes, or booze, advertised through an improvised cardboard sign on the window. But that was before our city got all fancy and formal with the whole needing a permit for breathing and all.

    Great post!

    • @ Rubén – It’s okay. You can kind of love my suegra sometimes. She is entertaining, after all… Honestly, the past few weeks she has been behaving and when she acts like this, (half normal!) life is so much easier and I can tolerate her living with us. If only she could be this way all the time!

  3. Ja ja ja… ay la suegrita, tan inocente!
    Es cierto lo que cuentas, es parte de la idiosincracia de nuestro país. Se vende todo lo imaginable (cuando estuve por ES este verano, iba caminando por las calles de un pueblito y un señor me ofreció un pájaro, out of the blue!). Inclusive, hay lugares que sirven de negocios múltiples (se cose y se inyecta, se hacen pupusas y se arreglan zapatos etc) muchas de esas combinaciones son muy divertidas!

Leave a Reply to *pol Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.