Monthly Archives: February 2009

Mexican cops doing good: The David Caruso case



Cops gone bad in Mexico is a recurring theme that tends to dominate our perceptions of law enforcement in Mexico. The recent capture by Tijuana law enforcement of  the suspected stalker of actor  David Caruso  highlights the more professional side of police agencies south of the border.  Interestingly, Tijuana authorities say they found the alleged Caruso stalker with the help of a blog called The Stalker Chronicles,  according to this Feb. 20 Associated Press story.

Here is a small sampling of other cross-border investigations: 

In 2001, Baja California investigators arrested a Tijuana man who used his resemblance to Ricky Martin to seduce and rape women. One of the victims I talked to (for a San Diego Union-Tribune story that is no longer available on the Internet) was from the United States. Her cooperation with Mexican authorities was key in his arrest. Here is an abbreviated Associated Press story.

In 2005, Mexican authorities recovered an abducted Nevada girl and arrested a suspect accused of sexually abusing the girl in the United States and Mexico. Here is a reprinted Union-Tribune story.

In 2008, Mexican authorities tracked down a man suspected of murdering his girlfriend in the United States and then fleeing to Baja California. Mexican authorities captured the man in San Felipe. Read the Los Angeles Times story by Scott Glover here.

Photo of David Caruso (above) reprinted permission of Alan Light via Creative Commons license


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What to do in Tijuana: Feb. 28-March 1


The border’s rural past and urban present are the themes of several interesting events scheduled to take place in Tijuana Saturday night:

Presentation of the book “Nationalism and Revolution: The events of 1911 in Baja California,” by Marco Antonio Samaniego Lopez.  The book explores the emergence of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) along this part of the border.  TijuanaEventos, an online entertainment guide, notes that the free event is scheduled for 6 p.m at the CECUT cultural center.

Here’s a map to the CECUT from the San Diego Reader.

But don’t be surprised if you end up finding a hypnotist instead…The book event is listed on the CECUT site, but lacks additional information. I’m wondering if if CECUT may be shuffling some programming due to the death this week  of Taurus Do Brasil, a Brazilian hypnotist whose popular show seems have been seen by much of Tijuana over the years.

On Saturday night,  the same time of the scheduled book presentation, the hypnotist show will go on from 6 p.m. – 9 p.m – – – with the son of Taurus Do Brasil. It’s unclear to me whether tickets are still available.

Also on Saturday, the Festival of  Urban Expression  is scheduled from 1 p.m. to midnight, with an eclectic mix of performance artists, break dancers, theatre, music and cars. The street festival will take place in Colonia Libertad, the neighborhood adjacent to (just east of) the San Ysidro port of entry on Pino Suarez Ave. Free.

Screenshot of Festival flyer. Event held by Tijuana’s Instituto Municipal de Arte y Cultura 

Soldier at the Mexican border: “May I please inspect your car?”



There’s something both intimidating and reassuring about being greeted at the Tijuana border by a masked soldier with a very large rifle. They started showing up here en masse last year in response to a notable uptick of drug-related violence. Now the camouflaged greeters seem to have become the city’s unofficial mascot to city visitors, along the lines of the bomb-sniffing dogs I once encountered at a Bogota, Colombia mall.

Once you get behind their ski masks, though, the ones I’ve met appear to be quite polite. I had the opportunity to watch them up close during two recent visits to Tijuana when my car was pulled over for an inspection at the border. In the most recent case, a lanky soldier leaned down to my eye level and asked me for permission to inspect the car. Then he then asked politely if I would please exit the car while he searched behind the car seats, along the door interiors and in the trunk.

Finally, finding nothing of note, he thanked me.

The San Diego Union-Tribune has a story by Sandra Dibble about the military’s increased presence in the border region. 

Not everyone is pleased with the soldiers. The New York Times writes about how some Mexicans – some of whom may have questionable motives – have been protesting the military’s presence in certain drug trafficking hot spots. Read the story by Marc Lacey here.

Photo of soldiers at Tecate port of entry during an investigation in 2007.

Ensenada Carnaval this weekend

                   YouTube video of 2008 Ensenada Carnaval from TioSam

Ensenada throws its own version of Mardi Gras this weekend. Heads up to Luis Navarro over at for reminding me on his blog about the Ensenada Mardi Gras Carnaval, which is said to be the city’s largest and most popular annual event. In the past, more than half a million people have come here from California and Baja. It looks like there will be parades on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Watch out for the cumbia-dancing clowns.  The festivities last from Feb. 19-Feb. 24.

For more information, go here.

See a slideshow of last year’s carnaval from SignonSanDiego.

Unsung heroes: Tijuana’s “squeegee” cleaners


Anyone who has ever crossed the border from Tijuana to San Diego has seen them: The “squeegee” cleaners dart between moving cars, deftly scrubbing your car’s exterior with their grubby rags and jogging in synch with the tires. They often look like they could use a good cleaning themselves, but I’m sure that a work place full of dust and exhaust is probably not conducive to a white lab coat.

At first, when I first started commuting to and from Tijuana regularly, I found them slightly annoying. They didn’t seem to take “no” for an answer, but then someone taught me the magic signal to decline their services: Briskly wag your index finger at them.

One day I ran into a major traffic tangle near the Tijuana border and the  cleaners sprang to action in a new and interesting way. They became traffic Super Heroes, waving cars in and out of the troublesome spot and restoring peace to a frenetic situation. I’ve seen this several times now in the absence of any other official authority and it has made me look at the cleaners in a whole different light now – as sentinels of order.

Photo of squeegee cleaner at the Tijuana border. I use the term liberally, since most don’t use the rubber blade tool.

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Catching up with Tijuana singer Julieta Venegas in L.A.


                   Screenshot of YouTube video of Venegas. Go here to see video

Artist Julieta Venegas is Tijuana’s pride and joy for her unique musical style that seems to transcend borders, genres and ages. She came to the University of Southern California last week as part of the USC Annenberg Distinguished Lecture Series on Latin American Art and Culture that is hosted by series director and USC professor Josh Kun, himself an expert in border arts and culture.

I wanted to attend the special “chat and sing” event on Feb.  12  – but I had a grad school class, so I caught up with the visit on the Los Angeles Times blog, Pop & Hiss. According to writer Margaret Wappler, “Venegas shared anecdotes about growing up in Tijuana, listening to her mother sing Jose Jose songs in the car, and later, as a teenager, crossing the border for drive-in movies in San Diego.” Read more of what Wappler has to say here.

To hear and see a music video of Venegas(above), go to this YouTube site.

Disclosure: I work in the media relations department at USC, though I wasn’t involved in this particular event.

Saying goodbye to Kinsee’s Tijuana blog-venture



I will miss following the Tijuana adventures of blogger Kinsee Morlan who spent more than two years living in this city, falling in and out of love, and figuring out her own destiny. These missteps and epiphanies are forever etched in her blog, Stairs to Nowhere ( along with the beautiful photos she took that capture the texture and landscape of Tijuana’s urban scene.

Turns out that Kinsee’s destiny meant getting engaged and moving to the outskirts of Durango, Colorado. In her final entry, she shares a wish list of what she hopes readers will take away from her blog and she criticizes  mainstream media for focusing too much on border violence. “I’m not leaving Tijuana because of the violence — let’s just get that out of the way,” she writes before sharing the things she will miss most about the city.

While I may be more forgiving of media coverage of border violence, I understand where she is coming from and respect her for making Tijuana her home. I had a chance to say “goodbye” to Kinsee, who worked as a writer and arts & culture editor  at San Diego CityBeat, over the weekend and I wish her well. It’s a long way from Durango to Tijuana, but I have the feeling that she will be back one of these days to rekindle her blog and write about life in Baja California as a retiree.

Screenshot of Kinsee’s final blog posting before leaving for Colorado. Photo by Kinsee Morlan.

What to do in Tijuana: Friday, Feb. 13


This is information for a Tijuana event tonight (Friday) ..a reader sent it to me a few weeks ago. So here are details that I quote from the accompanying message:

“We are a new company called White Wolf Production dedicated specially to entertain the people from Tijuana.We are writting to inform you about an event that we’re throwing on February 13th 0f 2009 at El Foro located in Downtown of Tijuana in Ave. Revolucion between 8th and 7th street. The doors open at 8 o’clock with the band called Roxanna, followed by the famous pop songwritter Chris Syler (from Miami), followed by the LA group “Adiosmercedez”, and for last but not least the singer and actress Ximena Sariñana. Also there’s going to be an afterparty in Box underground at the same place. The concert is for (people of) all ages.

The prices of the tickets are in pesos on the left side (an approximation in dlls on the right side):
$200 General 14.54 dlls.
$250 Ground 18.18 dlls.
$300 enumerated 21.82 dlls.
$400 VIP 29.10 dlls…The tickets are now available in El Foro”

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What’s your favorite Mexican soup? a) pozole b) menudo c) tlalpeno



I’m not a big fan of menudo or  pozole, but the soups have such a strong following in Mexico that entire businesses are built around serving them. Lately, the pozole-makers had to deal with some bad PR  since the soup name showed up in headlines related to the arrest of a drug cartel suspect who made an entirely different kind of pozole.  (I’m not going to spoil your appetite, but you can learn more here (Los Angeles Times), here(video),  and here(El Universal)

I do like Caldo Tlalpeno, a chicken-and-rice soup punctuated with a super-hot, large chile. Garbanzos and avocado chunks provide additional texture, along with onion and cilantro sprinkles. Served with corn tortillas, I find it to be quite satisfying. My personal favorites in Tijuana are the ones at Ricardo’s (pictured above) and the old Victor’s restaurant, though I’m sure there are plenty of other great ones.

On the same subject of soups, the Los Angeles Times recently ran a story about Mexico City opening its first ever soup kitchen due to the tough economic times. You can access the story and video, by Deborah Bonello, here.

North of the border,  here’s a “Caldo de Camaron” recipe from a blogger who dishes up shrimp soup secrets and her own interesting perspectives on the Eastside of Los Angeles at her site, Swapmeet Chronicles.

picture of Caldo Tlalpeno at Ricardo’s restaurant in Tijuana

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Traveling in Mexico: Good and bad tourists


Mexico is an extremely popular destination for Americans. The Los Angeles Times reports that American travelers logged 19.4 million overnight visits in 2007, and that’s not even counting the quick day trips that are made to close border cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.

Anyone who has caroused down Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion might be able to understand that not all tourists behave well abroad. On the other hand, not all tourists are treated fairly by Mexican authorities. And in some cases things go really badly for tourists.

 The Feb. 3 Los Angeles Times story by travel writer Christopher Reynolds notes that in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2008, 687 Americans were arrested just in Tijuana. Reynolds has other figures for Mexican cities that you can read in the story (link above, or here). The San Diego Union-Tribune reported one recent Tijuana example: The arrest of two U.S. sailors on attempted homicide charges.

 Meanwhile, the Houston Chronicle looks at the  number of U.S. citizens killed in Mexico since 2004 in this Feb. 8 article.  The newspaper does a commendable job of pulling together a database of all those deaths and raises good points about the low number of arrests. However,  after noting that some of these 200 deaths are drug-related or due to the victims’ own involvement in criminal activities, the article adjusts  the number of people who are in Mexico for “innocent reasons” to be “at least 70.” Per my own calculations, that means the rate of death for these more typical visits to be  roughly 17 per year.

I don’t diminish the personal impact of each death, but when you consider the millions and millions of visits each year to Mexico I am left wondering what exactly this tells me.

Photo of tourists walking down Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion, behaving properly.