Some people get a rush out of going to yard sales or outlets. Many Latino families, however, look forward to making a day out of going to the swap meet or la pulga as others call it. Dad would wake everyone up super early with his signature huevos con winnie urging you and your siblings to get your breakfast taquitos in so you could hit the road. You’d all jump into your tan-and-brown Dodge Caravan, or Astro Van, and hop on the freeway en route to the land of tilicheros.
Once there, the options of things you begged your parents for to buy you were limitless. This is what our mitú friends say was on their swap meet wish list:
1. The little perrito that would walk and bark.
Some were furry, some were plastic like this one. But you couldn’t turn the aisle corner without almost tripping on one of these cutie pies. Ya que papá didn’t want any real dogs in the house, you would guilt-trip him into getting you one that wouldn’t poop or make the house smell like dog.
2. Those mini fireworks you would throw at everyone’s feet to scare the sh*t out of them.
I want to say only kids with silver teeth used these but I’m going to be honest, I didn’t have silver teeth and I enjoyed throwing these to scare my brother. If you saw another desmadroso throwing these around, you knew he had just been to the swap meet.
3. Bootleg cassettes that were too expensive to buy at the mall.
Back in the day, if you wanted to listen to your favorite artist on repeat, you had to buy their music. There was no Spotify, no Pandora. You had the radio and $15 cassettes. However, the swap meet was the place to buy a dozen cassettes for the price of one. How many of us brought Selena cassettes?
4. If you’re a little older, you reached for records.
Older or maybe your parents were stuck in the record area. Regardless of age, the swap meet was the place to grab all kind of records from Selena to Los Bukis to Los Yonics. The
mullets covers on these records were eeeeeverything.
5. The fashionistas were always on the hunt for Xuxa Jelly shoes.
These weren’t just any Jelly sandals. They had to be the Xuxa chanclitas. They were colorful and glittery and designed by the Brazilian popstar herself. Every young fresita had to have them.
6. “Those damn finches,” someone said.
The swap meet had cages full of pinches finches. Every color, every size. Dad didn’t let you have a dog in the house pero bien que dejaba que mamá comprara sus finches. Yeah, they were cute and harmless but no reason why mom could take home animals that also pooped and smelled and you couldn’t get a dog.
7. It wouldn’t be Sunday if you didn’t pretend to get your Eucharist.
Whether you attended mass that morning or not, obleas from the swap meet took you to church. The thin Mexican wafers resembled the Body of Christ so much that you probably pretended to receive or give the Eucharist with an oblea… and probably got your hand slapped by your mom.
8. During the era of pogs, the swap meet was the place to stock up.
Before Pokemón cards and fidget spinners there were pogs. Endless amounts of pogs. Pogs came in all colors, all finishes, all weights and the place to expand your collection of pogs, slammers and pog containers was the swap meet.
9. Finally, if you didn’t go to the swap meet to take junk home, you went to gusgear.
Paletas, fruta con crema, tostilocos, Hot Cheetos with limón, duritos, tacos, churros, raspados, cacahuates japoneses, dulces con chile, Lucas powder… you name it! The swap meet was the place to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Even though going to the swap meet felt like a mission, it felt like a little getaway with the fam that took you back to your roots — and those moments are priceless.
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