This is the time of year when street vendors in Tijuana sell mini Santa hats that people stick on their car windshields. It’s also the time of year when border waits turn the city’s streets into a tangled pretzel of cars trying to get out of Mexico and into San Diego County so that Mexicans can do some holiday shopping.
The waits can suck the ho-ho-ho out of even the most seasoned border veteran. Heading back north from Tijuana this weekend, I realized belatedly that I was going to have to join the seasonal exodus. Oh, if only Rudolph could have guided my way! Instead, I got in the “fast track” SENTRI lanes along with hundreds of other cars and nosed my way slowly to the border. Waiting an hour in SENTRI is no fun, but I couldn’t help but feel grateful towards the other north-bound travelers willing to endure this long wait to spend money in our sputtering economy. So, instead of being glum I cranked up some Christmas carols on the radio and wondered how much of this money was going to end up in cash registers north of the border.
A figure that’s frequently quoted is that an estimated $1.6 billion in goods and services were purchased by Baja California residents in San Diego County in 2002. This is attributed to Kenn Morris of Crossborder Business Associates in the insightful Blurred Borders report put out by the International Community Foundation. Even though it’s unclear to me how much of that money is spent during the holiday season, it illustrates the ties that bind our cross-border communities.
Photo taken during normal traffic – not seasonal holiday traffic.