Every day, 50,000 cars and 25,000 pedestrians cross the Tijuana-San Ysidro border, making it the busiest port of entry in the Western Hemisphere. Crossing this border can take several hours, but these wary travelers never go hungry. Nearly 1,600 food vendors await these commuters, looking to feed them all kinds of belly-warming foods: burritos, tortas, tostilocos, and sweets like nieve de garrafa are just a few of the foods available to border crossers. This has been the way of life around the border for many years, however plans to modernize the Mexican side of the border may be about to end these vendor’s way of life. The mercado operates as more than just a place to sell food: it is where many of the older vendors live.
“The older people here, we’re the ones that will be affected the most,” Nelly Carrillo told NPR, adding, “Young people can move, but we already built a foundation here.”
Measures to protect these vendors are currently being explored, yet no clear solution has come to light yet. Some are suggesting that the vendors could become certified tourism operators. This would ensure that the vendors receive lawful protection they currently do not have, and since they already act as ambassadors to their country, they are providing a service for tourists. Aside from putting people’s livelihood in jeopardy, the proposal to relocate the mercado could cause significant cultural damage. In an email from Cog•nate Collective, the cultural importance of the market was laid out: “For us, the market is a vital space, inserting character, history and a social-cultural… dimension to the process of crossing the border.”
To get the whole story, check out the comprehensive story on NPR.
One of the biggest harms that a certain politician by the initials of DT has done to Mexico-US cultural relations is to paint an apocalyptic vision of Mexico. However, things are creative, colorful and plain amazing as you cross the border, and the state of Baja California, just below San Diego, offers sights, sounds, smells and flavors that are to be experienced to be believed. In particular, the city of Tijuana is no longer seen as the party town for gringos borrachos, and is home to a cultural scene. Just head further down and you will find beach settings and a valley que no tiene nada que pedirle a Napa.
The sites of Tijuana, Rosarito Beach and the wine region of Valle de Guadalupe are within driving distance of each other and showcase the wonderful diversity of a region. The area has been a bridge for millions of migrants and a home for proud and creative communities for centuries. No offense, but life in los esteits can sometimes be a little, mmm, predictable (shall we say aburrida?). In particular, la ruta del vino or wine route that leads to the pristine vineyards of Baja is a trip that offers sight that border paradise. Whether you want to take a trip with your friends or are planning a good old-fashioned viaje familiar, Northern Baja California is a great option to visit.
Let your eyes wander because Tijuana is a visual and artistic feast.
When it comes to street art and graffiti, Tijuana is one of the epicenters of the world. The mix of Mexican and urban American influences produces vibrant and often politically charged imagery that is perfect to capture on the Gram. If you are an artist in search for inspo, Tijuana is your spot.
Urban public art is plentiful and mesmerizing.
Tijuana has long been a site of political and artistic activism, and the municipality often allows artists to decorate public spaces, as witnessed here. There is always a surprise around the corner.
Photograph every corner and you can capture the true colors of Mexico.
Perhaps because it is right on the border, Tijuana folks are hyper-Mexican. Yes, they are proud of their cultural heritage and popular culture is expressed on the streets, in how houses are decorated, in kitschy but amazing public displays of creativity.
Head down to Rosarito Beach to get some more folklore.
Rosarito is the perfect combination of a tourist site and traditional town. It has not let tourism gentrify it completely, and it is still possible to capture amazing shots like this one.
The sunsets at Rosarito Beach are pictures of paradise.
There is nothing more humbling that witnessing a breathtaking sunset on the beach. The immensity of the ocean and the sky really gets you to reflect upon your life. If you have a media naranja, nothing beats kissing with this honey-infused backdrop.
Further down in Baja California, there are vineyards as far as the eye can see.
Even if you are not into the vino, witnessing the care that growers take in producing the perfect grape is amazing. Just seeing how the vineyards in Valle de Guadalupe form perfect rows is humbling in itself.
Let your tastebuds tingle with the taste of real tacos south of the border.
Damn, look at this tacos. Fresh cilantro, thick fried corn tortillas and spicy birria. Nothing beats Tijuana tacos, and taqueros in the city take an extra effort in showing that what you can get in the United States is just not that good.
Rosarito means lobster in culinary terms, langosta con frijoles.
Rosarito is famous for the quality of its seafood, particularly of lobster with black beans, pico de gallo and freshly made corn tortillas, infladitas y calientitas. Life just doesn’t get any better than that.
Get your gourmet on in Valle de Guadalupe.
Like in other wine regions in the world, Valle de Guadalupe has developed an artisanal food industry that benefits from local products and develops products that can be paired with the many wines from the region. El Cielo, for example, produces Mexican-influenced chutneys with ingredients such as chipotle. Stack up for those canastas de regalo come Christmas time.
Let your skin feel the warmth en Tijuana donde el sol es más sabroso.
We can’t deny that the city has faced many challenges throughout the years, and that being one of the busiest border cities in the world has also brought crime and corruption. Tijuanenses, however, are a strong and proud people and the city’s famous sunsets, with the border barrier as the background, are engrained in everyone’s memories. Watch it, feel the sun on your skin and capture it for your Instagram.
Explore by Rosarito by horse and turn your trip into an experience.
You can hire a horseback ride on the beach. Just look at these amazonas having fun. Girl power!
There is also the option of an ATV.
It might not be as peaceful, but adrenaline will run when you get on an All Terrain Vehicle and feel the sea breeze caress your body.
Or a camel?
Yes, that’s right. You can also hire a camel ride. To be honest, this is the first camel we see wearing a sarape.
Valle de Guadalupe is one place everyone should experience.
Places like Vinos Lechuza offer banquets al fresco that will fill your senses with wine, food, laughter, and sun.
Let your nose take it all of the smells Tijuana and its cocktails have to offer.
Take in the amber notes of a whiskey sour, or the bitterness of a mezcal pizco. Tijuana has been taken over by hipster culture and that means cocktails! The city has some of the best barmen in the world. Your nose and your tastebuds will have a fiesta. Places like Moustache Bar and Adelita Bar are a must. Tijuana is no longer just defined by cantina culture but also by top-notch fine drinking holes.
A BBQ in Mexican wine country? Yes, please!
Deckmans is a fantastic BBQ restaurant where you can have carnita asada and taste the delicious wines from the region. Let the smell of steak and caramelized vegetables fill your soul. Se nos hace agua la boca. A perfect spot for a tame and gentlemanish bachelor dinner party.
Let the border sounds fill your ears and your soul with global culture, music included.
Places like the Centro Cultural Tijuana offer concerts, and the city’s music scene has generated legends like Kinky, the electronic band that has won worldwide fame. DJs of word stature often play in venues like Rouge Live Music Venue.
Can you hear that? No? Well, you are listening to the silence.
Valle de Guadalupe features some of the most creative and dreamy accommodations in the world, such as this bubble hotel, Campera. Imagine waking in the middle of the night to meet the stars. Just enjoy the silence, or if this is a romantic getaway… well, you can make some noise. Prices are not that steep, with rooms available for $180 USD a night. Caro pero costeable.
Things boiled over Sunday when groups of Central American asylum seekers in Tijuana, Mexico rushed the U.S border. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents responded by firing tear gas into the crowd of women and children. The asylum seekers had spent weeks in Tijuana as a last stop on their march to the U.S. border. The mayor of Tijuana declared the situation a humanitarian crisis and asked the United Nations for aid to deal with the approximately 5,000 Central American migrants.
Thousands of Central American migrants remain in Tijuana as they continue to try to seek asylum in the U.S.
An area of the migrant camp in Tijuana that was virtually empty the other day. We are told up to 5,150 people are packed in here now. pic.twitter.com/MhICcifnPK
Due to the large influx of asylum applicants, they may be there for months. Many are seeking asylum in the U.S. while others are seeking asylum in Mexico. The group of asylum seekers are fleeing economic instability and increasing violence in their home countries.
The San Ysidro entry point between Tijuana and San Diego is the busiest border crossing point in the world, yet agents at the facility can only process 100 applications a day. This has led Juan Manuel Gastelum, mayor of Tijuana, to declare the situation a humanitarian crisis. He says he won’t commit the city’s public resources to assisting the migrants and has asked for assistance from the United Nations.
According to the San Diego Tribune, the government of Baja California has treated 818 respiratory infections and provided 1,286 general medical consultations to asylum seekers.
There has reportedly been a pending agreement between both U.S. and Mexican governments that would force asylum seekers to remain in Mexico while the U.S. processes their claims.
According to the Washington Post, the Trump administration had made a deal with Mexico’s incoming president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, to implement a policy that would have migrants stay in Mexico. This means that asylum seekers will wait in Mexico during the time it takes to apply for protection in the U.S.
While Mexico denied the report on Saturday, the news came out after a meeting between Mexico’s incoming foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and other U.S. and Mexican officials. This could mean an agreement is still in the talks or can be modified in some way. The incoming Mexican administration will assume office December 1 which is critical in terms of timing when it comes to the situation at the border.
Applying for asylum is a legal process and the U.S. has been condemned for “unlawful policies” directed at the migrants.
U.S. Border Patrol fired tear gas at migrants and refugees — including mothers and small children — who were seeking their legal, human right to asylum at the Mexico border. pic.twitter.com/x7Tr7ytNd5
Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science at University of California, Irvine, says that every migrant is legally allowed to apply for asylum, but it doesn’t mean they have the right to be accepted.
“The migrants have every right to seek asylum but what’s new and dangerous is the Trump administration trying to limit and make it harder for them to apply,” DeSipio said.
He says the tear gas incident over the weekend will only embolden the Trump administration to push forward with more stringent measures. Migrant caravans are nothing new but the issue has become a political talking point mainly because of the president’s constant attack on them. He has made baseless claims saying there are criminals in the caravan and even threatening to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border.
“This is all fitting into the president’s plan and will use it as evidence to justify sending troops to the Mexican border,” DeSipio said. “But closing down the border would have major implications going forward with Mexico in terms of legal entry and setting precedent.”
What’s next for the migrants waiting for their asylum claim?
After Sunday’s border clash, a number of migrants have opted to leave the caravan fearing their chances of seeking asylum are slim to none. DeSipio says many will stay and ride the process out considering they have no other options.
“These folks have no other option and it shows if they are willing to travel so many miles just to apply for asylum,” DeSipio says. “However long it’s going to take many will wait and some may risk their lives in the process.”
A new Mexican government and Democrats controlling the House of Representatives in the U.S. could complicate an already tense situation. President Trump continues to call for a border wall on the southern border and freshmen Democratic representatives ran their campaigns against the president’s tough line immigration stances.
“With the incoming [Mexican] administration and Democrats in control of the House, we’re going to see a showdown for funding for a border wall and the president doesn’t look like he’ll compromise,” DeSipio said. “At the end of the day what gets lost here is a tragedy. Many of these folks have a right to claim asylum but the president has essentially made that meaningless.”
This is a developing story. Check back with mitú for updates.