Revolucion, the main tourist thoroughfare in Tijuana, was pretty dead as usual last night. Tourism, see, is one of the victims of the city’s recent crime, too. Some reports say visits have dropped 90 percent since 2005, and if the ghostly appearance of the once poppin’ party street can be taken as empirical evidence, I’d say 90 percent is right — maybe even a tad low.
Last night, friends and I were going downtown to check out La Mezcalera, a new bar and restaurant on Sixth between Revolucion and Madero. On the way, we passed by a storefront on the corner of Fifth and Revolucion covered in thick plastic with the words “American Apparel pronto llegamos” scrolled on every window.
Wow. American Apparel in Tijuana. Really? Who would have thought?
At the Mezcalera, I talked to one of the owners of the new, decidedly hip hot-spot, and he pointed around to his nice freshly painted walls and clean restroom and said, “I don’t own this bar, the neighborhood owns this bar. I know that, before too long, this place will be a little dirtier and darker, just like the rest of Revolucion.”
I wonder if he’s right, or I wonder if more people like him and the decision-makers at American Apparel will start to see the possibilities of Revolucion and downtown Tijuana.
Not long after the owner of the Mezcalera made the comment about his place getting dirty and darker, he said he did hope new businesses came in and turned Revolucion into more of an outdoor urban mall-like area with places where entire families in Tijuana could come to shop and enjoy their weekends. The old stores filled with tourist-targeted things just aren’t working anymore, the owner of Mezcalera said, and he wished they’d just accept it and open stores targeting Tijuanenses instead.
Maybe the drop in tourism isn’t such a bad thing after all, I ended up thinking by the end of the night. Maybe the hoards of Mexicans who wait for hours in line to shop at stores in the United States won’t have to do that anymore. Maybe forward-thinkers like the people at American Apparel will see the market potential of Tijuana and finally build Tijuanenses the downtown they deserve.