About a girl

UPDATE:   I have since left Tijuana. I moved to Colorado in 2009 to get married and spend time with my family. In 2010, I moved back to San Diego where I now live with my husband and dog. If you have any questions about Tijuana, please email me at kinsee.morlan@gmail.com. Below is what I wrote when I was 26 years old and living alone in Tijuana:


It’s month 30. I’m living in Tijuana and lost as hell. I can’t figure anything out, especially the damn border line. It’s an unpredictable beast. The city itself is a chaotic maze, but it’s filled with networks of some of the most amazing, talented and resourceful people I’ve ever met. I want to be fluent in Spanish. I want to learn more about the culture and history of Mexico. I want to, if it’s at all possible, make Tijuana my own comfortable home.

It’d be cool if I could get more people to come visit me, too. I want to show them the city outside of Revolucion, the infamous party street that cuts through the middle of downtown like a thick, ugly scar. Every day in Tijuana teaches me something new. This blog will help spread the word. Tijuana is more than street tacos, pharmacies and prostitutes. It’s more than painted donkeys and Mexican wrestling masks. That’s what it’s not: I’m still figuring out what it is.

Oh, and if you’re wondering why this thing is called “Stairs to nowhere,” it’s because it’s a recurring phenomena in Tijuana. If you walk up and down a city street, you might find at least one or two old sets of staircases running into a newly plastered wall. The architecture in Tijuana seems to be constantly in a state of flux—people building and rebuilding again and again. The image of a staircase running into a wall is striking and sort of symbolic of what it’s like for many people in Tijuana. On the other side of the border fence is the land of opportunity, but then there’s that wall, and all that the wall stands for.

44 Responses to About a girl

  1. Hey Kinz.

    I would love to come hang out with you in Tijuana. Honestly, I’ve only had unpleasant experiences in that part of Mexico and am hankering for somehtin’ good. Name the time and place, promise to hold my hand and I’m there.

  2. swami says:

    … for hell’s sake, please, don’t create a romantic folklore around Tijuana’s chaos and anarchy. Certainly Tijuana is a very good place to start understanding some crucial elements about Mexico and Mexican people.

  3. Daniel says:

    …lol, I’m not hanging out with you, but you’re getting very close to describing Tijuana. Good luck and see you next time.

  4. Ulises says:

    A friend once said, en español

    “Esta ciudad es el ombligo de México, aqui se junta toda la peluza.”

    beware, it may lose something in the translation.

    “This city is the belly button of México, all the lint gathers here”

  5. goyo says:

    Hi Kinsee, nice blog you have here. An american friend of mine gave me the link, I think she found it interesting/amusing. I am a Tijuana native and it’s nice to see an American’s opinion that takes the good with the bad from Tijuana and appreciates the city for what it is. So, just in case you want to practice:

    Hola Kinsee, me gustó tu blog. El link me lo dió una amiga que es Americana, creo que se le hizo interesante/divertido. Soy nativo de Tijuana y me gustó ver la opinión de una Americana que toma lo bueno y lo malo de Tijuana y aprecia la ciudad por lo que es.


  6. d.a. says:

    I don’t think your blog romaticizes Tijuana, nor does it shy away from the “chaos and anarchy,” but it does shine a light on the culture and people of tijuana from a unique outsider/insider perspective that can be found nowhere else. There is much more to Tijuana culture than most gringos realize and you’re doing as much as anyone to bridge the divide in a positive way. Thank you, Kinsee.

  7. Justin says:

    What a brilliant project! Any leads on how other gringos can find live/work/art/dance/performance spaces in TJ?

  8. Sal says:

    From the depths of who I am, I have come to your blog and have found sustenance, Tijuana is a noble city, yes it was born still-born and is dying, broken, bloody, and yet it rises, yet it squirms, within its decaying structures and unpaved roads lies its soaring spirit, don’t judge it by its exterior, inside is the fleshy fruit, cross the borders within yourself, partake of the decaying flesh, find the fleshy fruit, find yourself, be reborn.

  9. Mark Dery says:

    Smart, searingly honest blog. Do you know Marcos Ramirez, one of Tijuana’s best-known artists? An icon of iconoclasm, well worth courting. I envy you your access to Baja’s best tacos. But watch your back. American media coverage makes the city sound like a shooting gallery for narcotrafficantes. Vaya con Hasselhoff, M. Dery

  10. edwin decker says:

    Kinz, I had no idea this was here. I just never got around to exploring those links. What a fantastic project. My love for you grows deeper still. I will definitely come down there, perhaps when Aaryn does, and let you show me/us around. This is great, I’m going to put a link to it on my blog.

  11. Raymond L Stehlik says:

    Hi! I just ran across you site, I’ve been thinking about moving down close to the boarder, just so I could look around for a loving Mexican woman, I’ll explain I’m single middle aged and my x-wife left me with our 3 kids to take care of, I’m doing a pretty good job all things considering. But soon the oldest will finish there schooling and that will just leave me with the youngest. I haven’t been with a woman since my x-wife left me, It’s been a few years now and starting to feel a little lonely. To be honest all I can fiend here is fat woman that seam to like me, but I prefer the slim or average ones. I think my chances would be better down there. But that’s my opinion! Also I’m retired already. I like to read your site topics nice column. So I tagged your site for future reading.

  12. Jacob says:

    I was in Tijuana from 01-2004 to 06-2006 and eventhough I am Mexican, I really felt like an outsider there. I grew in the U.S. and having to spend time in Tijuana was a frigthning experience I thought. That was until my 3 or 4th month when I started to really look at Tijuana for the what it was. The people there are very easy to get along and have a great attiude. I found many places to have fun and experienced many things that I would not change for anything in the world. The fact that U.S. Residents only hear about Avenida Revolucion, the prostitution, and the crime in Tijuana, really doesnt do justice to what this city has to offer. I visit Tijuana anywhere from 2-4 times a year and I still have friendships with many of the locals that taught me the ropes while I was there. I praise you effort to reveal the true values and traditions of living in Tijuana and wish you the best. I am SURE you will appreciate and enjoy your time there.

  13. Ben Stone says:

    At the moment I live in Ensenada Mexico, I’am American and in no way blend in. But overall I must say people have welcomed me. I have many friends here and most are Mexicans. I’m in Tijuana once a week at least work or to go out with friends. I think people have a very bad opinion on Mexico, but thats there own fault for only going to the tourist areas. We need more people like you to inform other Americans, but with the recent violence things are going to get worse before they get better.

  14. Colin Leath says:

    I’ve been working on a blog (SD/TJ Design, Plant, Harvest) intended to help its readers and writers grow in their understanding of the SD/TJ region.

    I just found your blog and will be following the links to the other TJ blogs soon.

    What the SDTJDPH blog may most need is an editor/cheerleader to encourage people to write for it.

    I’m not sure where I’m going with it, except that I work on it as I get the urge, and that I’d love to have others find it useful.

    If you have any suggestions, let me know!

    Also–through the local Food Not Lawns group I’ve met others interested in learning more from TJ–such as by organizing a visit to people doing local food growing there (since they generally have more practice than we do).

    I also recently found out about Foundation4Change which organizes cross border projects and tours.


    Contribute to the blogs, links, calendars, & maps at
    SD/TJ Design, Plant, Harvest:
    nourishing our shared space, caring for the commons.

  15. tracy says:

    Is your real name Pollyanna? You sound young and idealistic. There are MUCH easier ways to learn Spanish, dear. I lived in TJ 25 years ago and it was very difficult then and much worse now. Good luck to you and be careful. Lots of people play con games…

  16. Joseph says:

    sal si puedes

  17. ESPANOL says:

    Neat blog. I you came to TJ to learn Spanish on the cheap congratulations. On the other hand, if you don’t have it down by 20 months I’d recommend another avenue.

  18. Kyle says:

    I would be happy to visit you in Tijuana y pienso que yo podria ayudarte con espanol. Si no, al minimo buscaremos una aventura, o al miniminito, una conversacion.

  19. Audrey says:

    Cool blog , I’m gonna have to keep my eye on you, I love Tj too, in it’s f’d up way, everyday I cross the border and take a big relaxing breath, ahhh home. It’s crazy isn’t it? keep up the good work!

  20. Gerardo says:

    Hi, it’s really nice to see a different point of view of our city, most of all by a real “guerita” that lives here with us.

    It’s great, keep enjoying the city, as you have said it’s not only about “Avenida Revolucion”, you should try the eastern part of the city; different type of people.

    Keep working on your spanish, even if you do not stay in this city for the rest of your life, spanish (or any other language) can help you see things in a different point of view….

  21. Brian Pitts says:

    Just bookmarked your Blog.

    I ran across it while researching

    the drug wars in Tijuana.

    You’re a good writer.

    And a good photographer.

    I’m newly fascinated with the idea of running across someone else’s
    Blog in this manner. It smacks of discovering someone’s diary that you’re meant to discover.Someone you don’t know let’s say…very interesting.

    Good luck.

  22. Marcela says:

    Hey! I love your blog. I grew up a true border girl. Always lived my life on both sides. Either lived in San Diego and worked in TJ or vice versa. I love Tijuana and have since moved to Chula Vista after living there exclusively for 16 years. I hate what has happened to such a wonderful city. It’s like your addict cousin you know he is lost but you can’t help but love him. Keep up the good work. Bye.

  23. ME says:

    I was born in Tijuana and I used to work at the Cultural Center AKA Cecut. I’ll tell you one thing about Tijuana: Life is much easier than in the USA or other areas of Mexico. I’m seriously thinking on moving back home. I live in Poway now, which is nice but seriously I’m always gonna be just a Mexican here no matter how many degrees I have. In TJ everybody knows everybody, it’s easy to get acquainted.

  24. BajaGringo says:

    Congratulations on your courage to discover that life is more than just a 10 second media soundbite. Tijuana is a reflection of life and people in general; complex, dynamic, good, bad, rich, poor, dangerous and incredibly kind at times when least expected. To live life in fear is to never take risks. Life on this planet comes with no guarantees and I commend you, your efforts and the spirit you share here.

  25. Chris says:

    I live in TJ, and work in the US. I love here, viva Mexico! I love the culture, people, food, and of course the nightclubs!!!!

    Tijuana is becoming an amazing place to live, zona Rio, Chapultepec, Col. Cacho are the 3 best colonias to live in….. I think.


  26. Ana says:

    I really have found your blog interesting… after reading some posts I felt really happy but then I go on and read this part “about a girl” and felt even happier. It’s so nice to find people who try to see further. Tijuana and the rest of the border isn’t how it has been stereotyped and there is no other way to find out these part than living the “border-life”. Of course that many things should change around here, but I can assure that everyday gives you the opportunity to say “wow” 🙂 good luck!

  27. Jill Holslin says:

    Hey Kinsee, I know and love your work from San Diego City Beat, and I’m delighted to find your blog here–I just linked you to my own blog, too. I just spent the day in Tijuana yesterday with CITTAC, and I’m looking forward to checking out Casa de Tunel. Do you know the arts/culture paper Art de Vivir? These guys are terrific–very exciting project. Thanks for the blog–and maybe I will run into you sometime. –Jill

  28. Hey Kinsee, again your “almost Abuela” here.
    Ive read your blog and agree with some and not others. Your safety comes first, and I feel you have alot to offer to Baja with your positive thoughts….BUT you cant continue with this if you are in anyway attacked in TJ…thats only obvious, so the “abuela” says, find a safer city to live in and by all means keep up your work.
    You have alot of promise as writer and photographer….allow us all to continue enjoying it!

  29. Lisa Smith says:

    Wow.. I’m really intrigued by all of this. Steven and I should come down and explore of the art scene and and everything else more. Looking forward to reading your blog here.
    -Lisa Smith

  30. Daniel says:

    I touhg i might know you, but sadly i dont. jejjee i enjoy your tijuana blogging, i will invite you to a show of my band, hope that you can make it.

    Best Regrards.


  31. Nabi says:

    LUV your blog. You should try LA PAZ, the best city in Baja.

  32. Judy says:

    Came across your blog and love it! I totally understand where you are coming from. I am in the process of relocating to the Playas de Tijuana (as soon as a job presents itself in SD).
    Are you still there???? Contact me if so!

  33. Elie says:

    I really like your blog. I live in SD, and my dad is from Tijuana. He always talks about how much it has changed. I really do love Tijuana, but it’s sad that so many people give it a bad rep, and it’s also sad, that most people don’t see anything beyond “La Revolucion”. I think that you’re lucky for experiencing life there firsthand.

  34. sangroncito says:

    I live in San Francisco and have always found Tijuana and the border region fascinating. My friends think I’m crazy when I take a Southwest flight down to San Diego to cross the linea and spend a weekend in TJ. Now I’ve found a blog written by someone who gets it.

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  36. Avene says:

    My lastname is also Morlan. I am from Spain. I wish you good luck y your new home.

  37. eli says:

    interesting blog, for sure…Tj is so hard to decipher, so many things, constantly changing. You seem to have found a piece of your puzzle in this location.

  38. Great site, I will be back. Well done

  39. Lulu says:

    Hi! I loved your blog!

    I was born in San Diego but raised in Tijuana. I have always attended school in the United States. I moved to San Diego in 2005 and the transition was drastic. San Diego is such a beautiful city, however, even after 5 years it does not feel like home.

    I remember one day I had to go to the DMV in Otay Mesa and as I glanced at the city of Tijuana driving to my house in San Diego, I felt a whole in my heart, as if a part of me was missing. I missed it so much I wanted to go back there running to my old life.

    What most people don’t see is that Tijuana is not just a scene for cruel blood shed, out of control partying and drug violence. It is a home for a lot of people like me who are saddened by it current state.

    The biggest difference that I see from living in Tijuana to living in San Diego is that over there people know their neighbors. Regardless of all the misery people always smile.

    San Diego is a great place to live. It is calm and safe, never the less, I still miss the noise and chaos from my city. I go there almost every week and every time I am there I take in every single thing.

    I am not ignorant to the fact that there is a lot of violence. My father keeps me aware of that every day, I also watch the news. But is it too hard to see the glass half full instead of the glass half empty?

    Tijuana is not only made up of drug lords and junkies. It is also made up of young men and women, like myself, who are working hard to give the city a new chance of revival. Drugs and violence have destroyed our beloved Tijuana but with our strength, motivation and hope we will one day make it a better place to live.

    I say this in hopes that some day people will understand that Tijuana is not just a junk yard full of drug addicts and prostitutes, but that it is also a place full of people who want to see their city thrive and hopefully acquire a better future.

  40. Elisa Bautista says:

    I really enjoyed reading everyones opinions. I love Mexico no matter where I go. The best parts are the poorest. People are loving and kind and offer you just anything they have. When I am there I forget
    about my life in the U.S.
    I have relatives in T.J., Tecate, Mexicali, Juarez
    and someday I will have a home there to retire.

  41. ALMA says:

    Hola soy nueva en este tipo de blogs, no sé si se me puedo suscribir a el como en blogger para ver las nuevas actualizaciones, si se puede me podrías decir cómo?….Otra Tijuanense. Gracias.

  42. yo tambien soy nuevo en esto, me podriais ayudar un poco en esto de los blogs, gracias

  43. So where are u now girl? I am now working with Ollin Calli, a colectivo & cooperativa. Local en Pasaje Rodriguez. Love to get together again after all these years. Lynn

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