A gringo’s tale of two Walmarts


I have a “gringo” friend here in Rio Rico, Arizona, a town where we both settled to live, which is virtually atop of the United States of America’s border with México.

She recently emailed me, “It’s more fun having Latinos as neighbors than, well, almost anybody.”

“So true,” I emailed her back. “Especially so here, where you and I live as minorities. It is so pleasant to read that, you, like me, get such pleasure out of being immersed in a mostly Mexican culture.”

I’m always reminded of that pleasure when I shop the Nogales, Arizona, Walmart which is filled with warmth, smiles, and laughter, as contrasted with shopping the Walmart at the mostly gated and overwhelmingly “gringo” retirement community, Green Valley, Arizona, which is an easy 20-minute drive north via Interstate 19.

But what a grim and cold place that cavernous place is to me. Smiles and laughter seem to be forbidden.

That’s why I prefer to head, south, on another easy 20-minute drive on Interstate-19 to shop the Nogales’ Walmart.

That’s where I rarely leave without learning a new Spanish word, which comes in handy here in my Rio Rico, where 85 percent of my neighbors – most of them far more bilingual than I am – claim Spanish as their native tongue.

Anyway, during a recent trip to the always-festive Nogales Walmart, I almost bought a new screwdriver that I was positive I’d loaned to my neighbor and good friend, Jesús, whose native language is Spanish.

But before checking out that screwdriver, I asked the Nogales’ Walmart check-out clerk to translate “screwdriver” into Spanish. Whereupon, she merrily tossed me this tongue-twisting Spanish word, “destornillador.”

After asking her to repeat it  – twice ­– (“Dígame más despacio, por favor”) I put that screwdriver aside, because I knew that I’d heard that word just a few days before. Likely when I‘d asked Jesús if he’d returned the screwdriver he’d borrowed.

Jesús smiled and replied: “Tu destornillador ha estado en su caja de herramientas por lo menos seis meses, mi amigo.”  Which means in English – as my Google translator later revealed, “Your screwdriver has been in your tool box for the last six months, my friend.”

(The only word Jesús left out was “idiota.” No one reading this will need a translation for that word, I’m sure.)

And indeed, when I looked into “mi caja de herramientas,” mi destornillador was tucked in there just as my friend Jesús had said.

But I still have yet to wrap my tongue around that hard-to-say Spanish word, “destornillador.”

Next up? “herramientas,” which is still another wicked tongue twister.

What does all this mean?

Well, I’m not sure.

Other than to affirm that, just as my friend wrote, I’ve been finding that having Latinos (aka Mexican-Americans) as my neighbors is lots more fun, than, “well, as almost anybody (else).”

PS: The phonetic English pronunciation of “destornillador” is, more or less, “dess-torn-nee-yawthor.”  As for “herramientas” Well, I’m still working on that one.  But only after I keep working hard to convince all of México, and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, to use “parking lot,” instead of “estacionamiento,” which must be, surely, one of the most difficult of all Spanish words to say.

PS: A couple of days later, Jesús ambled over to ask me if I was done using “su martillo” he’d loaned me at least a year ago.

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