Monthly Archives: September 2008

Causes: San Diego fundraiser Tuesday for Tijuana dogs

Like Cats and Dogs 

Image by Qole Pejorian via Flickr

The Humane Society of Tijuana is a non-profit group dedicated to finding homes for some of Tijuana’s thousands of street dogs and cats. They also hold sterilization clinics. The Society attracts volunteers from both sides of the border, and they are holding a fundraiser Tuesday in San Diego. Here’s the note one of their members sent to me:


Greetings Friends!
On Tuesday, September 30th from 5-8 p.m., the La Jolla Brewhouse is having a happy hour to raise money towards a Mobile Unit for Humane Society de Tijuana’s Street Clinics!
La Jolla Brewhouse is a dog friendly establishment, so feel free to bring your furry friends as well. See their website for more info at
10% of all bar proceeds will be donated to HSTJ and there will be a raffle for some cool prizes such as restaurant and beauty gift certificates, t-shirts and hats. All raffle ticket sales will be donated as well!! The raffle tickets are $2 each or 3 for $5.
So, If you are looking for something fun to do that is also for a great cause, please mark your calendars and come on down to the La Jolla Brewhouse Tuesday, September 30th from 5-8pm!
The La Jolla Brewhouse is located in La Jolla, just off of Pearl Avenue, near the Vons shopping center at 7536 Fay Avenue.
If you have any physical donations for HSTJ, feel free to bring them on Tuesday the 30th as well.
Thank you for your continued support. I hope to see you there!

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Tijuana cultural center’s geometric growth


I wrote about the Tijuana Cultural Center, CECUT, in a recent post. Known affectionately as La Bola, it’s a cultural and arts center not far from the San Ysidro port of entry that gained architectural notoriety for the giant ball that esconces its IMAX theater.

 Now it’s time for an update: This weekend, the center opens a $9 million section that adds 16,145 square feet to the center’s exhibition space, according to an article in The San Diego Union Tribune. The new section is dubbed El Cubo  for its contrasting 90 degree angles, and the first two exhibits feature Buddhist sculptures and a show called “Civic Project.”

El Cubo (not to be confused with the Casa del Tunel) opens to the public this Sunday, Sept. 28, (10 a.m. to 7 p.m), according to the CECUT website. The CECUT’s regular hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Check my previous CECUT post for directions.

Screenshot from CECUT page

Mother Antonia talks about Tijuana prison riot


As Tijuana’s La Mesa prison erupted in riots last week, a question on some people’s minds was the well-being of Mother Antonia, the U.S.  nun who made it her mission to provide spiritual support to the prisoners over the past three decades.

Mother Antonia, who lives in the prison and is now in her 80s, emerged this past weekend safe and sound. She spoke at a San Diego area church about what it was like to hear gunshots and to tend to frightened prisoners in the middle of the second wave of prison violence. You can read more about what she said in this week’s San Diego Weekly Reader.

I once tried to do an indepth story about Mother (also called Sister) Antonia when I was a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune, but she gently rebuffed my requests. I think she was already busy working with two Washington Post reporters on a  book about her life. “The Prison Angel” was published in 2005. 

Her remarkable access  to people in both high and low places in Baja California makes the Mother Antonia story a fascinating one. Add to that the fact that Mary Brenner Clarke came from a wealthy background, was twice-divorced and set off on her mission with her own private vows (She was formally recognized by a bishop in 1978, according to one news report). 

Explaining her decision to work with prisoners to a Catholic news agency, she once said “I do not judge them for their actions.” That philosophy of refraining from openly challenging the questionable dealings around her has also probably served as a necessary and useful stance to ensure her survival both within and outside the prison walls.

Screenshot from Eudist Servants of the 11th Hour webpage

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Tijuana tunnel house opens as art museum


Most tourists won’t get the chance to crawl through a cross-border drug tunnel, but the new Casa del Tunel art museum may be the next best thing.

The project, which formally opens this weekend, is providing a new cross-border meeting point for arts and culture while also embracing the structure’s underground past.  I got to know the house in its previous incarnation when I was working as a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Authorities found a cross-border tunnel in 2003 that started from the home and ended in a San Ysidro parking lot. A year later, I took my curious editor to the house, which appeared to us to be locked up and abandoned. Turned out it wasn’t. Soon after, authorities found the house had been broken into again by tunnel diggers tapping into the remaining sections of the passageway. 

As far we know, the tunnel is now properly sealed. An opening celebration for the new museum, run by the Border Council of Arts and Culture “to create a new model at the U.S.-Mexico Border region for sustainable cultural development,” is scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 27, at 5 p.m. You can get directions here. And when I learn more about the museum’s schedule, I’ll update this post.

***Update: It appears the museum is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday by appointment. That’s too bad because I’m sure they would get a fair amount of foot traffic if it were more accessible.

For more information on the Casa del Tunel, read this story in The San Diego Union-Tribune. as well as this one by the Associated Press that has info. on upcoming Casa events. Also, check out this video on the Union-Tribune’s web site.***

Screenshot from Border Council of Arts and Culture website

Hot or Not – Tijuana style


It’s been a rough past month for Tijuana: decapitated bodies were found that are presumably linked to drug trafficking activities, and a prolonged prison riot reportedly claimed the lives of more than 20 people. 

With all that bad news, Tijuana coincidentally found an interesting antidote to recovering normality: A beauty contest. This wasn’t just any beauty contest. Sponsored by Frontera newspaper, the competition was to identity the hottest government officials in Tijuana –  both men and women. 

It seems to have brought some levity back to the city. The Tijuana weekly Zeta reports that Alberto Capella, Tijuana’s top public security official, jokingly told the contest sponsors that if he couldn’t be nominated (since he’s sacrificed his own personal attention for the good of the city) then his top aide, Rafael Cobian, should be on the list (Cobian was added).

Frontera, which regularly holds polls to determine what people think about current events, reported they have broken records with this particular one, with more than 500,000 votes for each category. To see the candidates, go here. The winners were published in today’s newspaper. They are: Tijuana mayor Jorge Ramos, who got 150,511 votes and Silvia Alvarez, with the city’s civil registry office, who captured 149,635 votes:

Photos are screenshots from Frontera’s web page

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SD-Tijuana cross-border coastal cleanup

A reader  brought this San Diego County cross-border event to my attention. It’s the 24th Annual California Coastal Cleanup Day on Saturday, Sept. 20th, which lasts from 9 a.m. to noon.

While the focus is on San Diego County sites, there appears to be four clean-up places south of the border. At noon there will also be a cross-border celebration at Border Field State Park for the South Bay participants and their Tijuana counterparts featuring an eco-kite competition and Son Jaracho music (listen to an example here). The Mexico clean-up sites, with links to directions, are:

Playas de Tijuana , El Faro

Playas de Tijuana – El Vigia

Playas de Tijuana – Canada Azteca

San Antonio del Mar

To learn more about the event, go here.

Screenshot from San Diego County’s Coastal Cleanup website

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Navajas: Traveling exhibit comes to Tijuana

You won’t find a lot of publicity in Tijuana about the controversial art exhibit, Navajas, in which ostrich parts, images of executions, and dangling dollar bills represent the victims and conspirators of drug trafficking activities and other violent acts.  The exhibit, by Rosa Maria Robles, is running through Oct. 3 at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California.

“What I’m trying to do with Navajas isn’t to create a scandal, nor to provoke just to provoke,” she told the Tijuana weekly Zeta recently. Instead, she said, it’s to “shake up the public…because the violence is growing so terribly.” (read a story here about the most recent outbreak in Mexico’s interior.)

Robles got into a lot of heat last year when she held the original Navajas exhibit in Culiacan, Sinaloa, where she is from. She included blankets that had presumably been used to wrap up and dump victims, a practice that has become so common in border cities like Tijuana that a word was created to describe the body finds: encobijados. Robles’ blood-stained blankets were confiscated by law enforcement authorities, who wanted to know how she got them (she later replaced them with blankets decorated with her own blood). In her interview with the Tijuana weekly Zeta, Robles said she was hoping to get the original blankets back on loan for the exhibit’s future showing in Mexico City.

I get the feeling that Tijuana is understandably sensitive about airing topics like this and scaring off tourists, so I find it somewhat amazing that Navajas (which means ‘knives’ or ‘razors’ in English) is even here. As someone who has written extensively about border crime and violence (and lived in Tijuana safely for two years), I wanted to see the exhibit for myself. I learned later that it’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. If you read Spanish, you can see a copy of the Zeta article here, which includes some pictures.

Screenshot from Rosa Maria Robles’ website