Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thrifters Around The World: Cindy from Puerto Rico

  [Photos by Cindy. Cindy kindly sponsors Thrift Core, her blog is eLousions.]

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Cindy.

My name is Cindy Lou and I'm 24. I live in a little island in the Caribbean called Puerto Rico. I’m the writer behind, my blog about art, crafts, my inspirations, thrifting, and silly fun.

There's some Spanish sangria in my blood, I love Barcelona where I lived for a whole year and it’s also my mother's birthplace. I’m doing a major in modern languages, I'm in love with my boyfriend (who follows me in most of my adventures, including thrifting) and I have 5 cats. I love sushi and when I’m in the mood I even make it myself. I have a small collection of Polaroids, and love film cameras. I’m honored to be here letting you know a bit of my thrifting experiences.  

When and why did you start thrifting?

I learned the goods about thrifting quite young, probably as early as 7 or 8 years old. I would always go to garage sales and flea markets with my grandmother. She’s still a great thrifter, we are 3 generations of great thrifters (including my mother).  

 What makes thrifting in Puerto Rico and Spain different than thrifting in the United States?

In the States there are a variety of places to go, sadly here we are not so lucky. Spain on the other hand is not like the States, but it does have more places to go than Puerto Rico. If it was a top list thing I would say the states are #1, Spain #2 and (sadly) were I currently live #3.

What are the names for "thrifting" in Puerto Rico and Spain respectively? 

I don’t think there is a word like thifting in our vocabulary, so mostly second hand shopping, or flea market shopping, also garage sales hunt.

Is there a large thrifting/junking/second-hand shopping culture in Puerto Rico and in Spain?

Personally I think there isn’t a big one, but I do believe there are some thrifters around. My generation saw the light not long ago and suddenly there are people that are into it- and even a new store that opened this month. Though I believe the real people behind this kind of tradition are older people and immigrants (Probably 'cause in their culture they do it).

Is there a stigma against second-hand shopping in Puerto Rico and Spain? Is it seen as dirty or something for paupers? (Van's Note: When we took my aunt thrifting when she visited us in Florida she couldn't understand why anyone would buy people's "old junk".)

I hate to admit it but Puerto Ricans are very consumerist, they have to buy ‘new stuff’. I come from a Spanish heritage from my mother’s side and as their culture is so different. I do believe there is a stigma, I remember when I started to go to flea markets it was something I wouldn’t tell everyone, because they would assume we had no money- or that we were weird. There is a culture of thrifters in Puerto Rico, but it’s not a big portion.

Spain is another matter, they often have different flea markets going around in the same city and some thrif shops where you can find the coolest things. From what I experienced is not a big deal if you buy thrifted stuff, apparently they have a bigger culture for it. Which would explain I have a family of thrifting pros.

Are there any flea markets in Puerto Rico and Spain? What are they like?

There’s a flea market that is open every weekend, and there are others that might be on occasional weekends. Sadly (and I keep saying/writing this) flea markets are not what they used to be. While there is some people selling 2nd hand stuff, lately they are filled with re-sellers. I remember how it was back when I was a girl and if I compare it; I would say that they suck right now! In Spain I saw many fun flea markets where you could buy  lots of collectibles. They had anything and everything you were looking for, it wouldn’t have been a disappointment.

Are there many dumpster divers and curb-side shoppers in Puerto Rico and Spain?

In Spain I wouldn’t doubt it, although I can’t really say there are. In Puerto Rico I believe there aren’t many, again the on-going generation is very consumerist. If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not! I’m not a dumpster diver because around here dumpsters are not the same as in the states, but at home we have some treasures we’ve taken from other people’s junk.

What are thrift stores like in Puerto Rico and Spain?

Don’t get excited thrifting, here is so depressing, lol! Basically we have the Salvation Army, and if we are lucky we have the occasional store that opens and closes quite fast. Like I said before, there is this one store that opened recently and it's got potential! There are also vintage stores that sell second hand, but that doesn’t mean you’re in for great deals. In Spain they have this store that’s called Humana and they have probably like 5 or so per city, which is basically you normal thrift store, and if I’m not crazy they also have Salvation Army stores.

Where do people do their second-hand hunting in Puerto Rico and Spain?

Basically the stores mentioned above and then we have the flea markets (which are killing the used stuff for re-selling crap), and of course the garage sales that used to be more popular like 15 years ago. As for Spain besides the stores there are the flea markets that are so fun. I could hang out the whole day at their flea markets.

Where is your favorite place to thrift? The United States? Puerto Rico? Spain? Elsewhere?

I’m not going to lie, I love thrifting in the states! With so many options and big stores how can I say otherwise? I mean with all I’ve said so far, you must think I have a huge hoping spirit since my options are so limited right now. That’s basically the reason I look forward to thrifting whenever I travel to the states, 'cause I know I’m in for a great hunt. Don’t be mistaken when I do thrift here I tend to find the most gorgeous treasures.

Van's Note: Nearly all of my extended family lives in Ponce, Puerto Rico. When I stumbled upon Cindy's blog elousions, I was impressed by the fact that she lives in Puerto Rico and thrifts. My mom (Mexican) is from a culture of thrift, but my dad (Puerto Rican) and his family don't understand the allure of "used junk". When I visit Puerto Rico, I can definitely see the "Consumerist Culture" Cindy discusses. People seem to only want new furniture and clothes.

Despite the lack of thrift culture, Puerto Rico is enchanting. I enjoy the beach, drives through winding mountains and hills, and exploring abandoned buildings. The lifestyle is slower paced. There's less emphasis on work, and more emphasis on having fun with friends and family. I posted my favorite snapshots from my trips to Puerto Rico around this time last year.


If you would like to be featured in Thrifters Around the World, shoot me an e-mail. I would love your feedback on this new segment, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Past Thrifters Around The World Interviews:
[3/01/2011] Thrifting Pro Miss P From the UK (Part II)
[3/08/2011] Switcheroom's Elle From the Philippines
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. cool series! its interesting to see what the scene is in other parts of the world.

  2. This was so interesting to read! I never even thought about how thrifting is in other countries. I think the stigma is interesting. I know it still exists here as well. When I tell people I bought something secondhand, sometimes they give me a dirty look like I ate from the garbage. They're just missing out on all the great and unique finds!

  3. I think this is my fave so far.So interesting.

  4. Miss P: I feel like this one is the most interesting one yet, too. Cindy has excellent answers!

    I like how this post offers thrifting perspective on three countries: Mexico (albeit briefly), Spain, and Puerto Rico.

  5. another great interview. what a fascinating series this is! and don't you love Cindy's name? i visited her blog and said if she married someone named Hu, she'd be right out of a Dr. Seuss book: Cindy Lou Hu. :-) i have never been to either puerto rico or to spain, so have to put these on my must see places list

  6. Very very cool. She is the cutest too!

  7. I want to go there!

  8. I'm loving these comments!

    Thanx Miss P I'm flattered!

    I love Angelika's point about my name haha

    Marcia thanx for the love!!

    Van thanx for everything!!

  9. Love this! Neat idea to go global!

  10. I think this is so neat to know that thrifting goes on in other countries as well. I love it. I get some of my best looking outfits from thrift stores. I pull a page out of a magazine that I like and hit the thrift stores to try and match it as close as I can.. Love it...especially the price

  11. Lisa: That's an excellent idea!

  12. I live in PR and I'm curious to know where this "new" store is. I've been to the salvation army store and it is SAD. I'm currently in search of props for a photo shoot.

  13. Hey Cindy Lou & friends! I'm glad to share that there's a group planning to open a Thrift Store in Arecibo, PR. I'm 23 years old and am leading this innovative project. I have to agree with Cindy that our culture is very consumerist, but it is possible to change this! Feel free to contact me if you are interested in knowing more about our project: agape[dot]store[dot]cafe[at]gmail[dot]com

    1. did you open? i wrote an email also...

  14. Do you think a thrift store us style will be a sucess in puerto rico?

  15. yes it will. I am moving to PR soon. that is why I am researching the stores

  16. Gosh I spent all my evening reading the "thrifters around the World" series, it's so interesting and i'm so glad you came up with this idea. Please keep posting this during 2014.

  17. I'm in Puerto Rico on vacation and jonesing to thrift. There is not anything obvious in San Juan, but I hit Frankys in old San Juan by stumbling into it. It is basically an antique store with high prices for tourists. Mostly beat and whupped stuff too. Fun for a digger.


I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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