San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

On a Saturday afternoon early last spring, two men from the Rio Grande Valley set up a festive produce market at the corner of Redwood Road and the Old Bastrop Highway in eastern San Marcos. The men, who gave their names but said they preferred not be identified in print, said San Marcos is a regular destination for their weekend traveling enterprise. Residents of the nearby El Camino Real and Rancho Vista subdivisions provide a solid customer base, they said. PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONALDO, © 2013


The brightly colored fruit stand stood vividly apart from the pallid, parched grass and overcast sky. The sweet smells of fruit lingered in the steamy air, drawing lusty bees.

Two men sat in the shade of a green and orange canopy, and appeared none too thrilled to see my camera, perhaps afraid the attention might draw the ire of the health department or some other bureaucratic busybodies.

Watermelons, mangos, papayas and a variety of soda – all from Mexico – beckoned honeybee and human alike. Oranges, pineapples, coconuts and more also filled the roadside display hooked to the back of a large, white truck. The rainbow of fruit rivaled the colorful canopy for visual dominance. In life and photography, color screams for attention.

The soda was among the more uniquely Mexican items available. The tall bottles seemed huge even by Texas standards, and

the knowledge that they were filled with cane sugar instead of high fructose made them seem even more appealing. Not even their unrefrigerated state could make them seem unappealing.

Now at ease, questions turned to laughter and the vendors’ warm demeanor emerged.

Times are tough for documentary photography. While technology has never been better, magazines hunger for candy-coated illustrations and newspapers are hacking away budgets formerly reserved for in-depth reportage. While the big stories still often find a way through the static, it’s the small slices of life that seem to suffer.

I’ve driven by many roadside vendors and have never taken the time to stop and talk to

them, much less buy anything. A plethora of more unique goods awaits outside of the world of Big Box stores. Experiences like this help me appreciate how the camera is a great tool to meet people and learn about the world.

Kilgore native JAMIE MALDONALDO typically turns his lens — and considerable talent — on the remarkable people and places of East Texas. His photographs have been published in Texas Monthly and JPG Magazine. Maldonaldo assembled this collection of a roadside fruit vendor on Redwood Road while visiting San Marcos in March 2013. See more of his work on Facebook and Twitter.






The vendors said most of the fruit and vegetables they sell originate from the Mexican state of Michoacán. With more than 2.5 million acres of agricultural land, Michoacán is a leading producer of corn, sorghum, avocados, strawberries, peaches, wheat, limes, sugar cane and mangos. Since 1999, the value of imported fruits sold in the United States grew from $4.8 billion to $9.7 billion, an annual average increase of 11.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; vegetable imports mushroomed on a similar scale, from $3.6 billion to $10.7 billion. In 2012, 69 percent of fresh vegetable imports and 37 percents of fresh fruit imports came from our southern neighbor. PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONALDO, © 2013


The vegetable and fruit trade is lucrative enough to attract attention from drug gangs who extort farmers for a cut of the proceeds and even hijack fruit trucks. According to an article last month in the New York Daily News, fighting between Michoacán farmers and the Knights Templar cartel — along with destructive heavy rains and and tree disease — have contributed to an acute lime shortage in the United States. As a result, the market price of limes has increased more than sixfold, by some accounts, from $14 a case to more than $100 a case, forcing many U.S. bars and restaurants to use lowly lemons instead. PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONALDO, © 2013

One of the vendors’ most popular products is neither fruit nor vegetable. “Mexicoke” is often sweetened with more cane sugar and less high-fructose corn syrup than Coca-Cola produced domestically. When the chief executive of Mexico’s Coca-Cola bottler, Arca Continental, told reporters in November that his company would begin using more corn syrup and less sugarto offset the cost of a new Mexican “obesity tax” on sugar, “America’s small but vocal Cult of Mexicoke freaked out,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Public outcry convinced the bottler to back down. Arca announced it would continue using cane sugar for Coca-Cola bottled for export to the United States. PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONALDO, © 2013




Before a reporter and photographer left the Redwood Road fruit stand, they bought a watermelon and a bag of oranges. All of it was as sweet as advertised. PHOTO by JAMIE MALDONALDO, © 2013

The San Marcos Mercury’s BEHOLD blog showcases the work of Texas artists and photographers. For information, send us a note.


    One thought on “Behold: Mexico’s multibillion dollar fruit industry as seen at a roadside stand

    1. This was a sweet little article containing beautiful photography. I enjoyed it very much and hope to see more like this in the paper.

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