California shares a border with Tijuana (city), Baja California (state), Mexico (country), like any border in the world there are always issues that affect both countries sharing that border. Today I felt like I was living in a bubble oblivious to what is happening right next door and the world. Without getting too political there are issues that can’t be ignored when you live in a border state. There may be a border between Mexico and the US however when there is a crisis in Mexico the border state like California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are the first to notice it. Today my eyes were open and I had a reality check.
Living in Southern California has its benefits. Since we share the border with Mexico it is easy to drive to Mexico and enjoy a day of Mexican culture. There is great food, great Mexican made products and cheap medication among other things.
I got an invitation on Saturday 1/7/2017 from my family to spend the afternoon in Tijuana (Californians call Tijuana, TJ). We drove to San Ysidro (US city) official border crossing. We immediately notice the difference. You see several years ago there was a parking lot in which US citizens could park their cars on the US side and walk to Mexico. That parking lot has been ripped out and it is currently under constructions. Next to this construction site is a huge Outlet of stores with a view of the border fence and the Border Patrol guarding it. After asking around we finally were directed to the correct path to enter TJ. It was a long walk, I mean compared to what it used to be. We had to walk on a bridge and go around buildings to get to the entrance.
We entered Mexico with no issue. It’s not like many people were entering today, that should have been my first clue that something was not right. As we walked along the long walkway I notice a few men and woman asking for money. What was strange was that there was only a small number asking for money, unlike before when you were followed by a group made up of women and children asking for money from the tourist. Once we passed the beggars we were surrounded by taxi drivers dressed in yellow shirts who drove a yellow cab. All I heard was “Taxi? Taxi? Taxi? It reminded of the movie Finding Nemo in which Marlin and Dory are flopping on the wooden pier as the seagulls fought between each other saying, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” We hopped into a yellow taxi and our journey began. The taxi driver offered to take us to Ensenada another tourist city further down south in Baja California, Mexico. We declined and requested for him to drop us near the shopping center in the downtown area.
As our driver drove us to the downtown district of TJ he started to inform us about the price of the fair and how the gasoline shortage has affected everyone in TJ. I started to notice the gasoline station that was closed to the public due to the gasoline shortage. The more we drove the more I saw closed gasoline stations. The driver informed us that the pipes are being blocked and people don’t know what to do since they can’t find gasoline anywhere. We recently had a couple visit us from Guanajuato, Mexico. They informed us that it is getting difficult to find gasoline. They have to drive really far just to fill up their car tanks. The driver who drove us back to the border line to cross back to the US informed us that it is even harder for his taxi company (white taxi cabs) to survive since the yellow shirt taxi owner has political ties. He uses his political ties to fill up his taxis with gasoline during the gasoline shortage which means that other taxi drivers are losing business. Yellow taxi drivers are monopolizing and profiting during this gasoline shortage. Apparently, there were several protests happening during our time in TJ. So why is there a gasoline shortage? I read that Mexico increase gasoline prices and all of Mexico are protesting the rate hike. Many protesters are blocking the distribution centers and blocking the supply lines to the nation. People are becoming desperate. I heard the desperation on the white taxi driver. It almost seemed like he was trying to find the quickest way to the borderline to minimize gasoline usage.
Closed for Business
We walked along the downtown area in TJ, oblivious to what was in front of us. Although there are shops everywhere, not all shops open for business. Years prior, every shop would be open and it would be difficult to walk due to the amount of people on the street. Today it was easy to walk through the uncrowded streets of TJ.
We enjoyed the day looking at the Mexican art and products being sold. What was interesting was that we didn’t have to haggle as much as we use to because the vendors had low prices from the beginning. They just wanted to sell something. The gasoline shortage is affecting business. People don’t have enough gasoline to reach their work. There have been deaths and looting in various part of Mexico, business owners are protecting their business by simply not opening for business.
Where are the Tourists?
TJ is a party town for young Americans to spend the weekend drinking and partying. Back in the days, you would see Whites, African-American, Mexican-Americans from the states walking the streets looking for the next bar or club to continue partying. Today I only saw Mexican and Mexican-Americans walking the streets. Having family members who are half white, it was a bit unnerving walking in TJ. We figured that it was not safe anymore. I later read the travel advisory in regards to traveling to Mexico. If there is no gasoline and business are closed add the danger of looting during a demonstration, this is a recipe for the lack of tourist in TJ.
Haitian Population Growing
While we were enjoying some street performers impersonate some famous Mexican singers, one of the performers started giving shout outs to the various Mexican states that visitors came from. At one point the performer gave a shout out to Haiti. When I turned I saw a group of Haitians enjoying the performance. You have to understand normally you see people from different nations visiting TJ. Today there were only Mexican, Mexican-Americans and Haitian. When we started walking again I started to notice more and more Haitians. On our way back to the border crossing we asked the cab driver about the Haitians. He informed us that they had arrived 3 months ago. As we drove several blocks he said “look, this all belongs to them,” meaning the Haitians. The driver told us that every day two trucks come and deliver food to the Haitian growing population. He informed us that the shelters are full and more Haitians are coming. The driver was not familiar as to why they are in Mexico but all he knew was that Haiti is a poor country and this is why the Haitians are coming to Mexico waiting to cross to the US.
When I arrived home I started reading newspaper articles in regards to the growing population of Haitians in Mexico. After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, many Haitians moved to Brazil. Brazil fell into recession for reasons I am not familiar with and the Haitians had to make the decision to make the hard and dangerous journey to TJ in hopes that the US will allow them asylum. Many took buses, taxis even walked thousands of miles to get to the US border. From what I read there are thousands of Haitian making the journey to the US right now. The US detention cells are filled to capacity and many Haitians are being released in California and Arizona with a mandatory court date appearances to relieve the detention cells on the US side. Meanwhile, the Haitians in TJ are waiting for their opportunity to be granted asylum to the US. It is a desperate situation for the Haitians stuck in a country that is not their own, waiting to enter the US with the hope of having a better future.
This blog is just a record of my observation while visiting TJ. I am positive there are many factors I have not mention that are the cause of the shortage of gasoline in Mexico, closed business, lack of tourist in a tourist border city and the influx of Haitians in TJ. I admit that I am not aware of my surroundings and I am ignorant of the events outside of my protective bubble. I know I am not the only one that has been living in a bubble. I personally get distracted with everyday events that affect me and my immediate surroundings. Of course, this does not mean I should not care about what is happening in the world. This trip was an eye opener to the bitter reality around me. I do plan on becoming more informed of what is happening in the world and if possible become more involved. I urge you to do your own research in regards to my observations while visiting TJ. I know that some of you have visited TJ and had different experiences from the one I had today. Please share your experience with me. I would like to hear from you. Most importantly don’t make the same mistake I did of just going to a place without research or at least know what is going on in your surroundings. The truth is that we could have been caught in a dangerous situation if we didn’t leave at the time we did. The border patrol officer who let us in informed us that there was going to be a demonstration at the entry port that afternoon. Beware of your surroundings. Once again thank you for reading.