We found this house one block off the main highway running through Nuequen, Argentina.Walmart sits directly across the street from it.
Yes, Walmart. And not just any Walmart, but a Walmart Supercenter. The kind of Walmart with not only clothes, toiletries and knitting supplies, but fruits and vegetables, tires and liquor.
Of course, I had to see it, so I forced a bewildered Noah -- I'm one of those who refuses to buy a thing at Walmart because of a general distaste of their business practices -- to turn off to find the entrance.
It's oddly located. You can't access the main entrance directly from the highway. Instead, you take a right, keep going, then you sort of lose sight of where it is and begin to believe you've been mislead. Next thing I know, we're driving past makeshift wooden houses with broken down fences and what looked like trash piled up everywhere. The closest thing to this zone I've seen so far in Argentina are the villas -- ghettos, for lack of a better translation -- outside of Buenos Aires and Salta.
Just as I was about to give up on ever finding the superstore with the golden sign, suddenly there it was, glinting in the sunlight, calling us to superb deals on ski wear, snack bars and American brand toys at far cheaper prices I've seen anywhere else in Argentina.
I asked the woman behind the front desk at our hotel if Walmart was new. No, it's been there for a long time. Then I asked about the neighborhood behind Walmart. That is far newer.
So why would this particularly poor and run down area suddenly spring up beside Walmart? Perhaps the people in the neighborhood work there? Or they prefer the cheaper prices? Or perhaps having a Walmart in the area brings down property values so that only small, cheap houses can exist nearby? Or maybe the two are unrelated, and I'm turning a nothing into a something.
I'll be sure to ask more when we pass through Nuequen on our way to Buenos Aires.