Blue People, Red State - Winter 2010 travel blog



my great buy

bales close up




Ropa is the Spanish word for clothing. The border town of Hidalgo, just south of McAllen, is a ropa center like none other we have ever seen. Every season American clothing stores have countless items left on the rack and must make spce for the new fashions of the next season. Eventually they all appear to be funneled south to this one small town. Container trucks bring bale after bale of clothing to Hidalgo's ropa centers and dump them in huge piles. Workers go through these piles organizing the clothing and selecting items that they want to resell. Their retail bosses can buy this clothing for $.15/pound. Even the lowest priced garment can be sold at a profit to the poorest Mexican. Eventually all that is not chosen here is baled up again and sent in bulk to Mexico.

Bargain hungry Winter Texans join the workers, climbing around the piles and choosing great buys for themselves and their grandchildren. When we were here last we found the place interesting, but the thought of climbing around piles of wrinkled random clothing was not all that appealing. But when we told Illinois friends new to the Rio Grande Valley about the ropas, they wanted to see them for themselves. These places do not have names and addresses that you can put in a GPS, so we gave them the tour.

As I wandered around one huge warehouse, a wool jacket reached out and grabbed my eyeballs. It was tailored and lined and the tag said it was made in Ireland. And it fit perfectly. We were in Ireland not too long ago and such a garment could have easily cost $300. Somewhat sheepishly I went up to the counter and paid the required $.15/pound. It cost me $3.79. It would be hard to imagine a Mexican lady my size who would want such a warm jacket. I'll give it a good home!

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