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Pacas for Cheap Clothes in Central America

Pacas are the place to shop for cheap clothing in Central America A paca is kind of like a scene in a movie where a car is parked in a bad urban area and is quickly stripped of all of its pieces by the locals in fast motion while the owner goes for a stroll [...]

Pacas are the place to shop for cheap clothing in Central America

A paca is kind of like a scene in a movie where a car is parked in a bad urban area and is quickly stripped of all of its pieces by the locals in fast motion while the owner goes for a stroll around the block. But, in this instance, a paca is a place where extremely cheap used clothes are rapidly carted away rather than car parts.

A paca is a cheap used clothing market that opens temporarily whenever there is a load of merchandise to sell. The clothes are probably donations from the USA meant to be given to the poor of Central America that were capitalized upon en-route.

A few days before a paca there will be a sign in the street advertising it — Paca here tomorrow — and on the specified day a disused storefront will momentarily thrive with commerce. Pacas usually stay open until most of the stock has been picked cleaned to its bare bone carcass.

For at a paca there is often one set price for everything, it is usually well under 1 USD. Get what you can while it is still there, or you may find only purple stretch pants with pee stains on them to purchase.

I watch my wife dig through the racks and boxes of clothing at a paca in Puerto Barrios, her foraging instinct being satiated in full force. The spoils of a paca go to the first grabber.

Photos of a paca

paca guatemala

Paca in Central America

Paca Hhere

Paca open today sign

paca empty store front

Pacas happen in usually unused store fronts

Paca

Paca

Related articles: Import from USA resell clothes in Guatemala

Filed under: Central America, Clothing, Economics, Guatemala

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 88 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3411 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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  • Caitlin September 5, 2010, 11:34 am

    Sniff.

    One of the top 5 things I miss from Guatemala is pacas.
    In Xela we foreign ladies use the word “paca” to refer to two things: the actual bags of clothing that are opened as in your article, and the many stores that re-sell them for a markup (but still cheap.) I once thought that Xela was the world capital of used clothing – there is a paca store on every corner. My lady friends and I used to make outings of paca shopping. Sigh. But then I went to Retalhuleu, Guatemala, where literally every other store is a paca. Unreal. I don’t get the economics of it.

    Anyways, I love pacas. I really do. Here in Mexico you don’t get the same thing at all. (Of course, you do get discount stores with shoddily-made factory good that are pretty cheap.)

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  • Chris Smith September 6, 2010, 4:33 am

    Really all the clothes in Panajachel, GTM (outside of in the Indigenas Mercado) are sold in Paca’s. I’ve migrated on to Mexico (just to get out of the rain) but most of my clothes are still Paca and I’ll wear them until they’re rags. A strange attachment. Practically an addiction, jjj.

    Hey Wade – I’m getting to Mexico City on the 15th, this month for “El Grito”, the 200th year Independence Day (!) and the best party anywhere. Super-promocional fares for the celebration on Volaris Air are lots cheaper than the bus. Your friend Paulo in DF is right. It’s at the Zocalo on 9/15.

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