Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Ghost of Tijuana Past

In the late 1980's before Alex and I were married, he was stationed in San Diego at NAS Miramar. I used to fly down to see him on weekends once in a while.

One weekend, we decided to go over into Tijuana since I had never been. We drove to the border, parked and walked across. It was a beautiful sunny day as I recall in late March. There were tons of taxi's ready to take us to the downtown area, so we got in one and arrived at Avenida RevoluciĆ³n in the late morning.

The street was packed, mostly with tourists, but there were also many vendors, panhandlers, and people offering you "two for one" cards for drinks in the local clubs and restaurants. Since it was almost noon, (perfect time), we decided to have our "two for one" margaritas to get us in the mood for the day, and then have lunch.

There were so many bright colors in Tijuana it made me wonder if the sunlight was somehow diffused differently there. So much noise and music! I felt a little dizzy from the surroundings, or maybe from the margaritas before noon. We wandered and gazed and shopped and debated if we wanted our photo taken on a burro. It was a fun day. I bought about 20 pairs of silver earrings from tiny Indian women showing their wares on brightly colored woven blankets.

It was expected that you bargain, so we did, but it was all in good humor and everybody walked away happy. The streets were filled with servicemen, families, college students, and hustling Mexican vendors offering you everything from watches to transvestite club show tickets.

We did go into a club (not the transvestite one) where they were playing really great music and we drank "two for one" margaritas and danced for a couple of hours. The club was packed and very lively. By late afternoon, we were both "Tijuana'ed out" so we made the trek back to the border.

For the next 3 or 4 years, we made this trip at least once a year. It was fun, cheap, simple and entertaining. We got to know some of the people who lived there and found out about their lives while sharing some of our lives' details with them.

I had heard that Tijuana was a dangerous place and I am sure it could have been, but I didn't see it that way. During subsequent trips, we explored a little of the nightlife and found it a little "wilder" than we have in the San Diego area, but not by much.

We had a friend with us one time and he drank too much and went outside to clear his head. When we realized he had gone out, we followed and found him propped against a light post with 4 young Mexican guys around him. They took off when we approached though so no harm done.

Today, I doubt I would take a trip to Tijuana unless I had to. Violence, drugs, and thugs have changed the place from what I remember so vividly. The last 20 years have not been kind to Tijuana. I remember the charm it once had for me and it makes me feel sad to know it won't be that place again.

There was a beauty in the squalor, in the noise, the people, the boisterous tourists, the cheap goods, the music and a rhythm to life that I fear is gone for good. Or maybe it's me who has changed.

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