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Top 10 Crises at the San Diego-Baja California Border

News you can use during these uncertain times

SAN DIEGO, CA – When US president Donald Trump declared last week that there was a “National Emergency” at the US-Mexico border, many of my friends and I in the San Diego-Baja California mega-region were taken by surprise. After all, my family and dozens of people we know make the commute across la frontera on a regular basis for work, play, food and cultural exchange sans incident.

But there is a distant possibility that the president’s base – located largely in the Midwest – know something that those of us who actually live here don’t. Perhaps we have been blissfully, some would say tragically, unaware of the looming crisis and the need to construct another blockade between us and our amigos in Mexico.

Thanks to the president’s declaration, a cloud has been lifted and I now realize that there are problems here at the southwestern border that have gone unrecognized for years but were inevitable, sneaking up on us like El Chapo emerging from a drug tunnel. So as a public service, A Gringo in Mexico presents the Top 10 Crises at the San Diego-Baja California Border to help you better navigate our region during these troubling times…

10. Zero-Tolerance Birria Shortages in Tijuana

Many of Tijuana’s food carts serve birria de res, a local specialty of seasoned and slowly-stewed beef, as a taco filling. Tacos Fitos, located just outside of Mercado Hidalgo, is famous for the stuff. Arrive too late in the day, though, and there’s a chance that they’ll have sold all of their birria and you’ll have to settle for a taco filled only with their delicious tripa (griddled small intestine). Arrive early so this doesn’t happen to you.

Tacos Fitos, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Tacos Fitos, Tijuana.

9. Arguments Over who will Pay for the Wall

When Donald Trump announced that Mexico would foot the bill for the wall, the effects were felt in Tijuana where souvenir hawkers beckoned pedestrians to “…come visit my shop! I need to pay for the wall!”. I was personally involved in several altercations, typically with laughter over a glass of good mezcal at an excellent restaurant with Mexican friends. A hotel owner in Ensenada challenged me to a round of poker to determine which of us would pay. I declined, knowing that I’d never be able to get that kind of credit.

Tijuana Souvenir Stands, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Visit my shop! I need to pay for the wall!

8. An Epidemic of High-Quality Wine in the Valle de Guadalupe

For years, dealers (some call them vintners) in the Valle de Guadalupe, Baja California’s wine region, have been pushing an increasingly addictive product on an unsuspecting public — chiefly imaginative red blends and more recently, refreshing rosés. Visitors from around the globe have reported experiencing a relaxed state “under the influence” and return again and again to get their “fix”.

Ray Magnussen, Lechuza Winery, Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

Rosé, cheese, and olives at Lechuza, Valle de Guadalupe.

7. A Section of the Wall in Playas de Tijuana Disappeared Completely

For a few years, a section of the border fence that runs into the Pacific Ocean in Playas de Tijuana seemed to disappear. A local artist had painted the horizon behind the fence to give the impression that for just a few meters, we weren’t separated physically, socially or emotionally from each other. Twice a year, this part of the border is threatened with a “humanity crisis” when gates are opened on either side to allow separated families and friends from both countries to embrace and commingle.

Border Fence at Playas de Tijuana, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Border Fence at Playas de Tijuana.

6. Ensenada has a Problem with Pot(holes)

All joking aside, there are some real problems that need to be dealt with in Baja California’s famous port city of Ensenada. It’s main streets, particularly to the south, are plagued with potholes that more often resemble sink holes. Recent heavy rains have only exasperated the problem. However, local tourism has benefitted by luring visitors with the promise of its new cenotes (underground rivers, typical in the Yucatán) for adventurous swimmers.

Ensenada cenotes. Photo Illustration: Erick Bio, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico

Ensenada cenotes. Photo Illustration: Erick Bio.

5. Roger Waters STILL hasn’t Responded to my “Open Invitation” to Play Here

In 2017, Roger Waters, former lead singer of the rock band Pink Floyd and a vociferous anti-Trump activist, intimated that he would consider playing the US -Mexico border at some point during his tour to protest the wall. I wrote an “Open Invitation” to the musician urging him to play the border between San Diego and Tijuana, then asked all my followers to share it via social media. Still no word, but if nothing else, this post is another opportunity to get his attention.

4. Health and Human Services Crisis

As healthcare costs increase in the US, more and more citizens, unable to afford treatment in their home country, are forced to come to Baja California for the services they need — be it essential cancer treatment and dentistry or voluntary plastic and bariatric surgery. Tijuana, in particular, has a burgeoning “medical tourism” industry and doctors across the city provide modern facilities and crucial services well below what one would pay in the US.

Border between San Diego and Tijuana. Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

3. There’s a “Plague” of Mexican Culture in San Diego

San Diego is plagued with a creeping influence of Mexican culture arriving from south of the border. Not unlike “Sharia Law”, its effects are felt throughout society. Our tacos have gotten increasingly better. Raucous Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations erupt throughout late October and early November. Local neighborhoods, such as Barrio Logan, exist almost entirely to express and celebrate Mexican culture through excellent food, beer and art.

Tacos at LOLA 55, San Diego, California, USA

Tacos at LOLA 55, San Diego.

2. Refugees are Causing a “Humanity” Situation at the Border

There is a real crisis at the border as caravans of refugees arrive here fleeing ravaged conditions in their home countries in Central America. A number of local groups and charities have helped by accepting and delivering clothing and other necessities to children and families. Chef Jose Andres, who fed desperate Puerto Ricans after the hurricane there, has opened his World Central Kitchen in Tijuana to feed Hondurans and Guatemalans sheltered in the city as they await asylum hearings in the US.

Chef Jose Andres' World Central Kitchen. Photo: worldcentralkitchen.org.

Chef Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen. Photo: worldcentralkitchen.org.

1. Beach City Caravans Storm the Border every Sunday

Approximately 15 million vehicles cross the border from Tijuana into San Diego at the San Ysidro border crossing every year. And arriving on a Sunday evening after a weekend in Rosarito or Ensenada, it can feel like they’re ALL in front of you. There is a cross-border expansion project underway that promises to expedite future crossings, but it’s often stalled by the US and Mexican governments. Working together to improve doorways instead of unilaterally building more walls seems an infinitely more useful, engaging and evolved exercise.

San Ysidro Border Crossing, San Ysidro, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Border at Tijuana/San Ysidro. Photo: Wikipedia Commons

6 Comments on Top 10 Crises at the San Diego-Baja California Border

  1. I love this. Thanks! Keeps the border “crisis” in perspective.
    I live in Naco, Arizona. The big crisis here is the mariscos restaurant in Naco, Sonora, was closed the last time I tried to eat there! Five of us went, completely psyched for fabulous fish dinners. Truly, THAT was a crisis!

    • Thanks for your comment Emilie! Yes, finding out your favorite mariscos restaurant is closed is a YUGE crisis indeed! We often face the same problem in Baja California when our local seafood village is out of spider crabs. A “Crustacean Crisis”, if you will!
      Scott

  2. Mavourneen "BAJA" O'Brien // February 18, 2019 at 5:13 pm // Reply

    Well done, Scott. Don’t forget to mention the extreme danger we expats who live on this (the south) side of the Border, face on a daily basis. Burgeoning affordable quality health and dental care being the first one that comes to mind. After 32+ years of living here, there must be some other crises. I’ll think about them and let you know. Keep up the good work of informing the world of our trials and tribulations. Gracias, amigo. Blessings. Mavourneen O’Brien AKA Baja

    • Thanks for your comment Baja O’Brien! Yes, keep them coming…maybe I’ll do a follow-up post with additional “Crises” we should all be aware of!
      Scott

  3. i understand that while living in mexico you dont see what the crisis is. I too cross between Arizona and Mexico and you are right, you cant tell at all there is a problem. However, if you try to use the national park outside of Lukeville there are signs all over the place warning of the dangers of illegal crossers. If i try to go off roading south of Casa Grande i am warned of the same thing. There are lookouts and sometimes snipers as that is a popular path for smugglers because it is close to I-10.
    Then if you want to to discuss the drugs you can but its obvious so i will skip it. Now lets get into how we support the tens of thousands that have crossed in the last few years. i have a handicapped son who now gets $60 a month to live off of…..because they need the money for the illegals and the illegals children.
    my other child’s education has suffered. w are in a poorer neighborhood. one thrid of his class doesnt speak english. when the get frustrated or board because they dont understand they start misbehaving which disrupts the whole class.
    these are just some of the ways.
    i get that you guys love Mexico much more than you do the US. I get that the Mexican people you deal with are wonderful. But we are not talking about those people.
    We have already detained MS-13, over 500 others with criminal records and so on and so on.
    there is most certainly a boarder crisis,
    Try not to take it personal. it isnt an attack on Mexico. but the reality is people from other countries use that boarder because they know it is not secure.

    • Thanks for your comment, Shanna! You’re right…I do love Mexico. But I also love my country, the USA. My dream is that we work together with our neighbor to achieve what is best for both countries. You know, building bridges instead of erecting barriers. I also understand that there are REAL issues at the border, but none, in my opinion, that will be solved by a “big beautiful wall” that runs for 2,000 miles along our border. That sends the wrong message to our amigos in the south and imposes not just a physical, but psychological separation. The number of illegal border crossers has actually decreased over the last few administrations, and illegal Mexican immigration is at “net negative”, that is more people are returning to Mexico than are coming here illegally. I don’t take your comment as an attack at all and appreciate your perspective. My goal with this piece was to (hopefully) provide a chuckle amidst all the seriousness.
      Scott

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