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

Tijuana as architectural inspiration


The San Bernardo neighborhood of Tijuana is getting attention from a cross-border team of urban planners and architects who want to fortify the flood-prone area with paved roads and a more sustainable community environment. They also hope to show that projects like this can help prevent run-off from mucking up the ocean and wildlife estuary just north of the border. 

Oscar Romo, an environmentalist and urban studies lecturer at the University of California – San Diego is leading the effort, according to a story that ran earlier this year in The Christian Science Monitor, which notes that Romo’s students and San Bernardo residents have been making thousands of hexagon-shaped pavers. 

Harvard graduate student Quilian Riano also recently visited the Tijuana neighborhood. For his architecture and design thesis project, Riano will be designing a community center and homes for the area. You can read Quilian’s thoughts about the project and see pictures on his blog, Fruitful Contradictions. 

Riano is coordinating with Romo and Teddy Cruz, an architect and associate professor at USCD with strong ties to the border. Cruz has applied his research of residential spatial areas in Mexican border cities such as Tijuana to designs north of the border. You can read a New York Times story about Cruz’ work here.

Screenshot of Fruitful Contradictions blog.

What to do in Tijuana this weekend (Sept. 13 -14)

The last time I went to the  Centro Cultural Tijuana, called “la bola”  for its ball-like shape, I saw a photo exhibit by Los Angeles Times photographer Don Bartletti about immigration and the border.  The cultural center (known more formally as CECUT) often highlights regional themes like this through the works of Mexican and local artists, making it a good starting point for exploring Tijuana.

The rotund part of the CECUT is actually its IMAX theater. The main building has a permanent natural-history type exhibit that details the history of the Baja California peninsula. The rotating exhibits, according to their website,  currently includes Photosintesis, a series of photos by Baja California photographers, and an exposition by Baja California artist  Jaime Ruiz Otis.

This Saturday night, Sept. 13, the CECUT is featuring a presentation by the Mexican folklore group Compania de Danza Ticuan  with mariachis, jarocho groups,  and all the colorful costume trappings. Shows are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and tickets cost about $20 per person.

The CECUT is also the starting point for a city bus tour that takes you to various Tijuana landmarks (I’m not sure if this is offered during the week, too). You can zoom through the tour in one hour, or you can get on and off the 13 stops and catch the next hourly bus. For more information go here

The cultural center is located on Paseo de los Heroes, and it’s just a few minutes from the Mexican port of entry at San Ysidro. You can take a cab from the border, or you can drive. 

Photo from Flickr contributor El Randy under creative commons license.

*My strategy of how to get to the CECUT by car: Cross into Mexico at San Ysidro. Drive past the Customs area and  avoid the first  exit to the right. Continue with the flow of traffic and stay on the right-hand lane as you start crossing the bridge.  Avoid any merges or  turns that veer you left or right off of this road. You will see a CostCo straight ahead. Drive as if you are trying to go to the CostCo and you will find yourself on the major thoroughfare of Paseo de los Heroes, which curves to the east. Keep driving along Paseo de los Heroes until you reach the traffic circle. You will see the CECUT on your left and should be able to figure out how to get there OK.

Another perspective of Tijuana

Financial Times correspondent Adam Thomson is posting blog-like descriptions about his 14-day visit along the U.S.-Mexico border, and you can read what he has to say here.  

In his first few days in Tijuana, Adam checked into a hotel in the central district, visited the migrant shelter and took a stroll along  the western-most part of the border fence where metal meets the ocean waters(picture above). The postings, called “Mexico border diary,” provide a traveller’s perspective of life along the border. The latest border diary page is from Mexicali.   (addition: The “border diary” seems to have prompted some critical response for its description of Tijuana. See comments below…) 

Thomson’s project involves writing more standard news stories about border issues – such as this one from the Texas border –  in what’s described as a series on “the changing nature of the US-Mexico border, on communities being torn apart by restrictive U.S. policies,” according to the paper’s web site.