Contributed Story: Instability in Tijuana

This story was contributed by Luis Blasini, an American expat living in Tijuana, Mexico. Check out his blog, Borrowed Flesh.

An old man draped in filthy rags blinked in the unrelenting Mexican sun. His creased face was the color of a brown paper bag and he sported a dingy yellow cowboy hat. From tired eyes he watched three white trucks – Tijuana paddy wagons – hurtling down a broad street kicking up dust. Several police clung to the sides as they raced by – dark eyes filled with fear and hatred, faces covered in black masks. One stared back at the old man, fingering his shiny black AK-47. The old man stood glaring in apathy.

Seconds later and blocks away, gunfire and a rumbling explosion erupted. Five more trucks careened past, followed by monstrous paramilitary vehicles while the street teemed with pedestrians casually going about their affairs.

I stood in the coolness of an awning sucking on a cigarette. Three squad cars roared past the dusty greenery of Park Teniente Guerrero, their squealing sirens scaring a mother clutching her baby in her breast. Five kids raced behind, crossing the street of kamikaze taxis and rickety buses belching black smoke. Several shifty and dubious malandros turned to hide their faces from the barreling convoy. The police cars always travel in threes now, ever since the local cartel executed 14 people in the last month, police officers included.

Two nights ago in my room I heard the rat-tat-tat of machine gun fire. Last night the symphony repeated itself down on the corner. Seven bodies lay in the darkened streets, blood oozing onto black concrete and vecinos didn’t care. Thirty minutes later a fat cop chewed a cigar stump, surveying the scene …

In the rural hills of Independencia where you can score speed, heroin, coke, crack – anything your junky heart desires – fires run rampant in the shanty adobes across from the school where a five year old boy timidly scuttled home, clutching his textbook. He passes roving gangs of cholos, their faces vicious with hate as they prowl and brandish pistols to deter the inquiring placas

Down on Avenida Revolucion, the arrogant tourist still lurks, still drinks, still dances, still buys that ‘One-tequila, Two-tequila, Three-tequila … Floor!’ t-shirts, unaware of the slaughter occurring a few blocks from their reverie. This is Tijuana – my Tijuana – a place I call home …



  1. I live just north of El Paso, and Juarez is about the same. You have to be nuts or desperate to live there. If Mexico does collapse we’ve got a big, REALLY big, problem



  2. Tijuana has always been a poor gritty dirty way station on the way north. It is not really a part of Mexico, most of which is poor but civilized. Tijuana has been a failed city for a long time. Sadly Tijuana is just a clearer reflection of the dark underbelly of American society, politely placed just over the border fence.

    When America’s economy sneezes Mexico catches cold. It has always been thus. As someone who lives in San Diego and travels through TJ to get to my fathers house, I’ve seen TJ grow over the course of my lifetime. Its not nearly as poor as it was during the 80’s, but has a significantly larger permanent encampment of the poor.

    Unlike the first poster I disagree that Mexico has to collapse for us to have a really big problem, we have it now.


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