If you are reading regularly, then you already know that we recently moved to the Mexican city of Tijuana. The border crossing between at San Ysidro is either the busiest or fourth busiest land border crossing in the world depending on who you ask, and Tijuana is the most visited border city in the globe. With a population of almost 2 million it is the biggest city in the state of Baja California and has a modern history dating from the 16th century when Spanish explorers stepped onto these lands.
After Trump started making claims about the ‘beautiful’ wall he wanted to build in his election campaign everyone around the world got to know about the physical barrier wall between these two countries. The reality is that the beginning of the wall was already created a couple of decades ago and it started here in Tijuana in 1990. It was 22.5 kilometres long running between San Diego and Tijuana. It was expected that this construction would solve or at least reduce illegal drug trafficking and immigration. Over time the barriers were added to and extended, and as of now it covers more than 1000 km.
This partial wall probably has brought just harm. As the barrier is “protected” by cameras, razor wire, and armed security officers, it results in people trying to illegally cross the border in other areas that have no fence. Crossing have moved to the dangerous Sonoran Desert and the Baboquivari Mountains, where many die trying to make the journey. Illegal border crossing exists all around the world, no wall is going to stop it and it will continue to exist in the future for many different reasons, mainly economical and political. So, this barrier has solved nothing, cost a fortune, taken many lives, created needless conflicts and had a negative effect on the environment.
It is one thing to read about it, to hear debates or see movies and a completely different thing to touch it physically and to know what is the feeling to cross Mexico-US border. Of course we don’t feel the need to risk our lives by trying to cross it illegally, but Tijuana is a great place to experience it. And I don’t mean by train, bus or car, I mean on foot!
John and I decided to have our first adventure by walking across the border. Actually it was much easier than we thought walking from the USA into Mexico, but is probably a lot more hassle going in the opposite direction. We took the bus from Los Angeles or San Diego to San Ysidro and from the bus stop it will take you around 10 minutes to enter Mexico. Well it took us about 10 minutes, but it was late in the evening and the middle of the week, if you are trying it during the weekend or any holiday time you might need to prepare for a longer wait!
To be truly honest I was very excited and a bit worried after hearing so many stories and had I kind of made lots of freaky ideas in my mind. Crossing any border is always fun somehow, but it is really not exciting to see see the high wall and the fences with razor wire. It looks scary, it gives a feeling of uneasiness and insecurity. While we were walking next to the wall I was trying to imagine how it feels to live everyday seeing the wall through your back window.
Nowadays Tijuana is an international city, you can pay for things not just in pesos, but also in dollars. Many people who live in Tijuana work in San Diego and commute across the border every day, as San Diego is much more expensive city to live in. It sounds a bit crazy crossing this border twice per day, especially when there are often long queues, Many products and services are cheaper her too, especially medical services. If you want a dentist, pharmacy or any other kind of medical treatment really this city is becoming a mecca for the people from the United States, because the prices are incomparable.
If we would live in Europe or the US I am not sure we could afford to eat out everyday, but in Tijuana we could easily. Different restaurants, street food, modern spaces with many different cuisines not just Mexican. There are some great food markets in unexpected places, some of them are hidden germs. Many people from the US come here for parties or just to enjoy a relaxing weekend.
I would definitely recommend anyone to go to the beaches of Tijuana and look at the part of the wall there. The steel construction even extends out into the Pacific Ocean! At the moment we visited there was a big contrast between the two countries. The Mexican side was full of people on the beach taking in the sun, playing with sand, swimming, enjoying themselves, I promise we will write more about the beaches in Tijuana soon. The other side was empty, but maybe just because it is more of a park zone than beach. The area on one side is International Friendship Park and on the other is Friendship Park, but the wall dividing them looks anything but friendly.
The Mexican side of the wall (or in some places fence) has become an urban art gallery. This street art is a way for people to express thoughts, beliefs and political views. The graffiti we saw was actually very touching and showing the desire for friendship and will for a better life.
When we came to Tijuana it was a snap decision and we didn’t know anything much about it, but we are learning. Now we read some articles with statistics and stories, we walked a lot in the city, started to explore and experience things. If we would just believe and trust in the negative statistics about the crime levels and the mafia cartels then we would lose a lot by not giving a chance to this city. It’s a place which has found a way to fight against the violence, learned to show and share their own wonderful culture and traditions with the rest of the world.
Isn’t it so much better to make bridges not borders?