Monthly Archives: October 2008

Tiger Woods golf project south of Ensenada

The Port of Ensenada    

Image via Wikipedia

The U.S. economy may be tanking and Mexico struggling with drug trafficking violence, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped Tiger Woods and a development group from moving forward with an oceanfront golf course just south of Ensenada.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the project in Punta Brava will include about 125 homes with prices starting at $3 million. Woods told the Journal that “It’s so beautiful there. You see the ocean from all the 18 holes. That’s something we didn’t ever want to lose.” Read the rest of the Journal article here. lists 15 golfing facilities along the entire Baja peninsula. I’m not a golfer, but I am familiar with the Club Campestre Golf Resort in Tijuana, and I have a friend who has done some golfing south of Tijuana and seemed to like it. (Another Baja golf site to check out is

The Journal reports the latest project won’t open until 2011, which gives a fair amount time for things to cool off both north and south of the border. In the meantime, you can listen to the sound of ocean waves rolling onto shore at the project’s website here.

Woods is the latest U.S. celebrity to attach his name to a Baja California project. Donald Trump lent his name to a high-end coastal condo-hotel project just south of Tijuana that’s supposed to be completed in 2009, according to an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune. These kinds of developments in Baja California are typically marketed to residents north of the border.

Picture of Ensenada port by Cesar Bojorquez via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

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Garage doors as Tijuana homes


Where do old garage doors go? In some cases, they end up here in Tijuana where they are cut up to fit the domestic needs of the city’s poorer families. Here are a few examples of how garage doors are transformed to provide shelter and protection in a typical lower-income neighborhood.

Garage door businesses north of the border often sell or give away the used doors to cross-border entreprenuers who then re-sell them to residents here for about $25, according to a 2000 article in The Los Angeles Times that was reprinted here. 

The garage door homes are found in parts of the city that are typically populated by recent immigrants who need affordable structures. The city, which draws people from all over Mexico, is reportedly growing at a rate of about 4-5 percent annually (compare that to 1.6 percent in San Diego County, according to SANDAG figures).

Contrary to popular belief, not all the newcomers are heading to the United States. Many come here to work at the region’s international maquiladora factories.

Tijuana provides them the opportunity to earn comparatively higher wages than in the interior of Mexico. The garage door is their slice of the so-called American Dream.


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Tijuana’s broken heart

This pamphlet – with bullet holes piercing a heart –  was distributed inside a program for the recent San Diego trolley dances.  In addition to calling for cross-border artistic collaboration,  it expresses succinctly the mood of the city these days.

Mexican media report that close to 60 people were killed this past week in the city, most of them presumably the result of feuding drug groups. Based on my previous experience reporting about crime south of the border, it was a bad month when 60 people were killed (the numbers usually ranged between 20 and 35).

Tijuana’s Frontera newspaper also reported that the city’s Secretary of Public Security, Alberto Capella, recommended residents sit tight  – inside their homes – and have faith that law enforcement will restore the peace. An article this weekend in The San Diego Union-Tribune isn’t so optimistic.

To be sure, most of the cases involved dumped bodies. That has become somewhat more acceptable here since the killings are seen as a settling of scores among criminals and done behind closed doors. But this weekend,  Frontera reported that three innocent bystanders were killed in a shootout.

As others have explained to me over the years, there will always be a certain level of drug-related violence here (as long as there is a demand for drugs in the U.S.),  but in normal circumstances the outbreaks are controlled by the most powerful groups. When those traffickers are weakened, as has been the case in a prolonged government push against certain long-standing groups, a different level of violence is touched off by the entry of newer groups and internal rifts. That is the case for the region’s  Arellano Felix drug cartel, which has been in a slow but steady downhill spiral since 2000.

This kind of violence targets people involved in drug cartel activities – not tourists. This is why you don’t hear about cartel-related shootings or dumped bodies on the popular tourist strip of Avenida Revolucion or near the cultural arts center.  I’ve also found that moments of extreme violence can be followed by months of relative calm. This blog will continue to include noteworthy developments but postings like this one aren’t meant to be alarmist  – unless you are involved in illicit activities. Tijuana may be going through some rough times, but she still has grit and pluck and I’ve learned from my experiences travelling in troubled countries that the rewards usually far outweigh the risks. For an example of that, read this story about Tijuana’s vibrant cultural scene.

For another analysis of the recent wave of drug violence, see this Los Angeles Time report.

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What to do in Tijuana this weekend (Oct. 4-5)

Tijuana tourism officials have got their work cut out for them. Close to thirty bodies were dumped this week in the city’s streets (as of Thursday night), presumably the work of major drug cartel groups. While the body counts may be sobering, life goes on for the city’s law-abiding residents. Here are some places where you may find them:


Entijuanarte art festival: More than 155 artists, most of them from Mexico, will participate in the fourth annual Entijuanarte art festival. The event will take place at the city’s border-adjacent cultural center (CECUT – for directions go here). In addition to showcasing sculptures and paintings, the event will include conferences, performances, videos, theatre, contemporary dance and music. The event takes place from noon to 9 p.m. both days, and it’s free.

Visit El Cubo: While you are at the CECUT, check out the cultural center’s newest addition, El Cubo.

If you can stomach it: Tijuana’s Fiesta Brava Gastronomica continues this Saturday ( as well as Oct. 11, and Oct. 18-19). The event, which starts at 4 p.m., includes bullfights and top dishes from local restaurants. It’s located in a space near the La Diferencia and Villa Saverios restaurants in the Zona Rio. For a general idea of where it is, go here and then start asking around. General admission is about $30 per person.

*Across the border does its best to verify this information but suggests visitors do their own additional research because venues change, errors can be made, and events cancelled.*

Screenshot from Entijuanarte web page.

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Body counts in Tijuana and beyond


This past weekend in Tijuana I picked up a copy of the magazine Proceso, which is Mexico’s equivalent of Newsweek or Time. Here are a few of their top headlines:

“What broke out in Morelia.” (How the grenade attack that claimed the lives of eight people in Mexico’s interior during an Independence Day celebration is presumably linked to drug groups) 

“The state of Mexico, dominated by the Zetas and The Family.” (about the interior state, also called Mexico, being taken over by drug groups) 

“Veracruz: the mayors are being extorted by the Zetas.” (focusing on another state where mayors are being corrupted by a drug group)

“Drug trafficking is now a national structure.” (enough said)

Things got worse this week with Tijuana waking up Monday to  16 dumped bodies (and more on Tuesday), most of them showing signs of mutilation commonly linked to drug traffickers.

The drug trade has plenty of victims and accomplices north of the border, but we often forget how the demand for drugs has ravaged Mexico. I tend to see drug-related violence as a parallel universe that doesn’t usually affect the typical visitor, but for those of us who have weaved in and out of its fringes ( in my case, as a reporter based out of Tijuana until 2008), it’s a startling affirmation of responsibility shared. For more musings on this topic, see this post.

For Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s latest response to the developments, go here to a CNN story; For more background on the government crackdown on drug cartels, go to this Los Angeles Times story. 


photo: A graffiti-painted wall provides a colorful background for a Mexican soldier standing guard in Tijuana Tecate. Mexico has increasingly used the military to combat drug traffickers. –photo by Anna Cearley.

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