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Babeling essays on touristic subjects

TIJUANA : for better or for worse: a name known round the world.

THEY SAY SHE ISN'T SAFE NOW, and it is true that in the past ten years the drug lords and drug soldiers have been killing each other and attacking the police more than they used to, but the fact remains that IF YOU DON'T GO LOOKING FOR TROUBLE you probably won't find it.

THE ONE THING THAT IS DEFINITELY TRUE is that sometimes these days Revolution Avenue looks like a ghost town. Fortunately there is still work in all the factories, and recent figures report that trans-border manufacturing and shipping is actually up ten percent.

BUT TOURISM CONTINUES TO SUFFER. Hotels are empty, shops begging for sales, and dozens of bars and stores have closed their doors. Even famous old restaurants have shut down.

Yet, at the same time, local efforts to revitalize Revolution Avenue have resulted in a new series of art galleries and studios in the Rodriquez Arcade off of Revolution just a couple doors up from Third Street, and a handful of new bars and clubs have opened on sixth street (near to classic Dandy del Sur).

As for the security issue, well, NO No, no, nobody can guarantee you will be safe, you might be the one person out of ten thousand who gets in trouble, but... thousands of others, Mexicans, Gringoes, Japanese, will all have a good time. And let's get real, here, "going to Tijuana" has always been a little dangerous.

It's up to you. Whether you're going to just have fun, or go looking for trouble.

TJ aka "Tia Juana" (or Tijuas) has been a favorite gringo-destination tourist city for over a hundred years — ever since the California land boom of the 1880s, when "excursionists" went from San Diego to Tijuana in wagons, searching for a taste of Mexican culture, food, bullfights, postal stamps, and more.

In the Roaring Twenties, with prohibition in the United States, untold thousands of new tourists flooded across the border, creating the "golden age" of Tijuana tourism. Bar and beer gardens popped up everywhere, horse-racing and casinos drew gambling crowds, and other forms of entertainment forbidden in the United States drew crowds south of the border to this quaint, roaring, toddling town.

TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT — she can — now more than ever — provide you with a most excellent good time, whether you come to:

  • shop for the weird or the exquisite,
  • eat a good meal (of many different styles of cuisine),
  • perhaps pick up discount pharmaceutical {bring your prescription to get legally back across the border},
  • visit an open public market like Mercado Hidalgo,
  • see a blockbuster movie at half-price at the mall,
  • begin a longer trip into Baja California or central Mexico
  • or just catch the experience of Mexican culture on its homeland frontier.

  • HOW SHE HAS GROWN since her official "birth" in 1889!

    From old west town through roaring twenties Hollywood prohibition resort to postmodern factory megalopolis and western capital of the bloody border drug wars, TJ  has boomed!

    Once a quaint California frontier town of barely a few thousand men, women, children and burros, well... Tijuana has now exploded into an industrial monster of two million souls and animals.

    Remarkably easy to approach, this city at the end of the earth is less than an hour's drive from anywhere in San Diego, under three hours from Los Angeles.

    You can also get here by train/trolley, bus, or airplane.

    Lots of good food here! Maybe you enjoy eating tipico tacos and carry-out roasted chickens from a street corner shop. Or perhaps you want to sit down to a more refined and comfortable dining experience, whether on Baja California seafood, Argentine steak, Italian, Chinese, in a vast palette of restaurants ranging from moderate to luxurious (check out Hungry Hikers' in-depth restaurant review site at "http://hungryhiker-tj.com/").

    Perhaps you come to indulge in offtrack sports betting with the numerous "books", or a video-slot casino (both with Caliente group), or to sample Tijuana's famous cantinas, nightclubs, floorshows and bars.  To dance and party the night away. OR to get/catch sexual diseases.

    Perhaps, like the gringo poet author of this page, language is involved: you want to spend some time where everyone speaks Spanish, here on the frontier, where Mexico begins, under that giant flag on the hill above downtown centro.

    Maybe, like many Chicanos and Anglos in California, you like coming to Tijuana specifically to experience the culture of Mexico, in Mexico, operating under Mexican laws and customs.

    This search for the experience of "olde Mexico" has been going on since the first "excursionists" came across the river in big wagons more than 120 years ago. 

    You can follow in their footsteps and shop and bargain in traditional markets for herbs and candies and who knows what, and haggle in mixed Spanish and English (and now Japanese) at either Mercado Hidalgo in the River Zone, or Popo Market on 2nd just two blocks east of Revolution.  Or buy liquor, perfumes, and cigarettes at special duty-free shops (there are limits).

    Or, for a more mundane experience, check out the Mexican version of a supermarket — like the Gigante right on Revolution between 2nd & 3rd — with its fascinating small differences in items offered for sale. Drop into a panederia for a sweet roll (pan dulce). Go to a bullfight (can't get that in the United States) at the beach. Catch music from mariachi to tecno, visit the Museum of Baja California history (@ CECUT), or just go to the mall and take in a new movie for half the stateside price.

    This [in]-famous border town sports the motto lema of aquí empieza la patria – the homeland starts here. And it is, indeed, a portal into and out of all the rest of Mexico. From its international airport and various bus stations, Tijuana offers multiple bus and air-links both out into the world and south into deeper Mexico.

    Seated on the border between twin Californias, TJ is a great doorway trampoline between la republica mexicana y la union americana, and is, according to popular belief and official U.S. propaganda, "the busiest border crossing in the world."


    N.B. (2008-2011): Those who are concerned overreports of violence should remember:

  • tourists are not targets of the violence, and
  • tourist areas (Revolution/downtown, Zona Rio, and the beaches) are generally safe parts of town.

  • Emergency Phone Nos. in Tijuana (yes, only three digits)
    for Tourist Assistance: 078
    for Police/Fire/Accident Emergency: 066

    Tijuana Map.Text
    a scatterbrained
    geographistorical meander

    From San Diego you can simply take the trolley to the border, and walk across — a traditional "constitutional" available in striking border style. The walkway to downtown has recently been extensively re-vamped with spacious pedestrian walkways, and new, wheelchair-friendly sidewalks on Revolution Avenue (the heart of touristic kitsch). The rest of downtown is kind of okay for wheelchair Athletes. Bicyclists should have thick, tough tires, and avoid potholes.

    International tourists already visiting California take an "extra" bonus trip into Mexico.  You begin at Tijuana, the gateway to mountain, beach and desert party cities waiting for your money and good times.  Nearby rustic camping or furnished resort spots of northern Baja California around Ensenada, San Felipe, Tijuana, Rosarito, Mexicali and Tecate, are the perfect destination for two or three day vacations and romantic getaways — everything from the economical hotel to the luxurious country spa is available by car or reasonable bus adventure.

    Farther south, around Guerrero Negro, the grey whales gather in winter (February) to calve in the protected waters of those vast salt water lagoons. Small boat whale-watching tours are availble through almost any motel or hotel there. You will need a tourist visa to go that far south.

    For the frontier region just around Tijuana, no special visas are required (for Canadians & U.S.Americans) to enter for 72 hours, and go as far as San Felipe or Ensenada and la bufadora.

    With a Mexican tourist visa (buy for 20 dollars at the border gate), you can go even farther, longer, deeper, into the wilderness peninsula of Baja California, onto the Sea of Cortes, and beyond toward central Mexico. 

    Serious armchair web-surfers should also consult other sites about Baja California (as well as Tijuana), both government and private and commercial.

    WHENEVER you visit Mexico, whether just the border or farther in, you should always carry valid identification — either driver's license or passport.  The cops in this city and state will not be happy if they stop you and strip you and you have no I.D. Like most cops anywhere, the first thing they want to know is that you are a "real" legal person. 

    After September 11, 2001, the U.S. border inspectors will also get really bent if you donīt produce I.D. on demand.  So be a survivor tree.  Bend in the wind.  Carry identification when you run away to Mexico.  Surrender to the empire (appearances are tricky, Luke, I am your father)*grin*.

    Send e-mail at tijuanagringo@yahoo.com

    Daniel y Miguel (identical writing twin cousins)

    The United States Government Department of Homeland Security, Division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, IS Implementing New ANTI-Terror ID Policy at the Border.

    EVENTUALLY ALL U.S. CITIZENS Will Be Required to SHOW A U.S. PASSPORT to get back into the U.S.

    AT PRESENT U.S. Citizens must either present a Passport OR two forms of Identification, one of which may be a birth certificate. THERE IS NO MORE JUST SAYING "U.S.Citizen" and being waved through.

    We, however, have our passport and RECOMMEND it Highly.
    Excellent Identification for any purpose whatsoever.

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