In his marvelous OC Weekly column, Ask a Mexican, Gustavo Arellano responds to a reader who asks, "Why do Mexican women dress up to go to the swap meet?" He writes, "It's classy, it's sexy and it's a thousand times better than the plague of middle-aged [gringas] shopping in sweat suits, spaghetti-strap tank tops... and other clothing items pulled from their slutty daughter's closet."
Mexicans are among the most well-groomed people on earth. From the time they're babies, they're primped and dressed to look their best.
Beauty parlors, called esteticas, are everywhere, and most are small and informal businesses. No Supercuts in San Miguel. Thank God.
This one, Carol's, opens at 3 PM. At least that's what's painted on the wall.
(I like the s-shaped figures surrounding the lettering. Mexicans have used design elements like those for centuries. I think it's in their blood: Got a wall? Put a little squiggly design on it.)
Carol's offers cuts, tints, streaking and something called bases. Near as I can tell, bases have something to do with roots. Maybe one of you knows.
On the edge of town, you find more primitive places.
At least with Carol's, you know where the entrance is. Getting into this salon requires exploration.
The "No Name Beauty Parlor" uses its valuable signage not to list services provided, but to make sure everyone understands the hours of operation. Probably because you can't make appointments. Probably because there's no telephone.
Like Carol's, it opens at 3 PM. Looks like a trend. I'm guessing the salon operators' day jobs last until three, and the clients' jobs last until then too—so there's no point in opening earlier.
This much more upscale place discloses its Mexican heritage by the amateurishly hand-painted sign. Every letter is in upper case except the "h" in mechones. Looks like a typo.
What are mechones, anyway?
But Julie's is in Santa Barbara! The other day I was missing San Miguel so I routed my walk down the south end of Milpas Street, where the inmigrantes live.
Mexican women learn early about makeup, hair care and dressing attractively. Their appearances get high priority. Just ask seven-year-old Teresa.
Look at those eyelashes! In 2015, teenaged boys are gonna be toast.