UPDATE 7/28/09: Because I heart Tijuana, I’m going to continue posting emails I get about the city. I won’t be producing any original content, but if you want to post Tijuana news, events or opinions, send me an email.
I’m not leaving Tijuana because of the violence — let’s just get that out of the way. I love TJ and, no matter how hard the mainstream media tries, I refuse to be afraid. The violence isn’t targeted at people like you and me. The drug war is an all-out battle fought in the streets of Tijuana and other Mexican border cities, and yes, every now and then, innocents get caught-up in the crossfire, but the relative safeness of Tijuana is no worse than Washington, D.C., Oakland or any other urban city with an edge.
Wish for TJ No. 1: People, journalist especially, should lay off Tijuana. Focus on the artistic and ingenious side of the city and quit adding to the black cloud that hangs over the place like the undeserved bad reputation of poor, misunderstood high-school students who smell weird and act a little strange only because they’re different and creative.
The seedy side of Tijuana is notorious. Just this morning, I got an email from one of my readers about La Zona Norte. He wanted me to explore his and other gringos’ love and apparent addiction to the prostitutes and strip clubs located in the “Red Zone” just north of downtown. I’ve been to the barely-legal strip clubs and photographed the prostitutes in the Red Zone; I too am drawn to the things we don’t often see out in the open in the U.S.
And admittedly, I go out on Revolucion every now and then to get tequila poured down my throat and stay up until 5 or 6 a.m. acting like an idiot. I’ve hit up some of the hundreds of pharmacies the city is infested with and taken advantage of their lax rules and regulations. I’ve been a bad gringo who benefits from Tijuana’s bad side.
I actually wouldn’t like Tijuana if it didn’t have all those naughty and dirty things, but that’s not why I love the city.
What made me fall in love with TJ were places like Estacion Federal, La Casa Del Tunel: Art Center, Galeria H&H, The Lobby, La Mezcalera, Tacos Salceados, Dolce Salato, Dandy Del Sur, Lui Velazquez, La Estrella, Cafe La Especial, Mercado Hidalgo and Cielo; things like two-for-one specials almost everywhere you go in playas, the liveliness of public places and plazas, bright colors, tacky ads, bustling streets, taco shops on every corner, strange and different smells on every block, farmers markets, mariachis, fire-spitting and juggling beggars, big families and underground parties; and people like Jorge Tellaeche, Derrik Chinn, Luis Ituarte, Gerda Govine, little Nanette and Rafi, Tania Candiani, Beam, Louie Navarro, Lucia Sanroman, Giacomo Castagnola, ERRE, Astronauta Jackson, Toni V, Guerro and all of the Radio Global peeps, Lesli and Dream Addictive, Charles Glaubitz, Foi Jiminez, Caballo, Sergio Gonzales, Daniel Ruanova, Mely Barragan, Aldo Guerra, Adrian Posadas, Memho Sepulveda and the drag queens at Mike’s.
Wish for TJ No.2: Look at my list above. Seek these people, places and things out. Explore Tijuana. Take a camera. Think about volunteering and helping the city get better and better.
The only thing I do not like about Tijuana is actually no fault of the city itself. The line — the bastard-ass intolerable line to get back inside the U.S. — is a nuisance. It disrupts the natural flow of the city and turns all Tijuana drivers into nuts. It’s embarrassing and disrespectful, unnecessary and a giant waste of money. I still can’t believe that, in modern times, we have walls keeping people apart. It makes me giggle until I start thinking about how serious and horrible it really is.
I’ll miss Tijuana. I’ll miss the quesadillas and the beautiful language. I’ll miss the brown skin and the beer. I’ll miss defending the city every time I tell people where I live. I’ll miss arguing with assholes who think illegal immigration can be stopped through stupid legislation and building multiple walls. I’ll miss the culture, the excitement and the adventure. I’ll even miss the smelly Tijuana River and the scruffy street dogs. Oh, and I’ll miss the churros and raspados for sure.
I won’t miss wondering if my car is going to be outside of my apartment when I wake up every morning. And I won’t miss going without water for days, or even weeks at a time (or hauling drinking water, for that matter). I won’t miss having to dust off anything and everything I’ve left outside because of what one Mr. Chinn likes to refer to as “Tijuana dust.”
I’m leaving this exciting city because it’s time for a new chapter in my book of life. I’m ready to do the more internal adventuring and finally allow myself to really fall in love, get married and, eventually, have kids. I’d do that here in Tijuana but I’m not even going to pretend that I can do the kid thing without the help and support of my mother and father.
I’m sorry to those of you who will be disappointed in me. I’m sorry to those who think I’m giving up or giving in. But, most of all, I’m sorry to the city of Tijuana. I hope other voices spring up where I’ve left off.
This will be my last real post. I plan to maintain the site only if there is an event or community notice that I feel needs to be posted. Keep up with me on my new blog, Durango Dirt, or by following me on Twitter.