Tag Archives: mexico

How social media is helping cross-border investigations

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Being a former border reporter and an eager student of social media, I am always keeping my eyes open for ways that these two interests of mine intersect. A couple examples from this year demonstrate how social media is playing a role in cross-border investigations.

I previously wrote how a blog called the
The Stalker Chronicles apparently helped Tijuana law enforcement officials find the alleged stalker of actor David Caruso earlier this year. (Read details of the case in this Feb. 20 Associated Press story).

And now a story in The Guardian sums up why it’s a good idea to understand what’s public and what’s not in Facebook – especially if you are a fugitive hiding out in Mexico.

According to the story (which I first read in Mashable), Maxi Sopo fled the United States earlier this year after allegedly getting involved in a fraud scheme and learning that investigators were looking into his possible involvement. Rather than lie low online as well as offline, Sopo started updating his Facebook status with descriptions of the good times he was having in Cancun. One of his Facebook “friends” was a former justice department official who apparently met Sopo at a Cancun nightclub and had no knowledge of Sopo’s fugitive status, according to the story. Read The Guardian for more details, but I would venture to guess that Sopo’s updates from jail probably aren’t so pleasant.


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President Obama shares some dance moves with Mexican singer Thalia

Thalia is a well-known Mexican singer and former TV soap star. I remember watching her in the Maria la del Barrio series that was on Mexican television in the 90s in which  she portrays a trash picker rescued by a wealthy benefactor and  eventually finds true love after tearful betrayals and misunderstandings. In real life, Thalia Sodi Mirana married music executive Tommy Motolla.

In this video, she decorously dances with President Barack Obama for a few moments before concluding her song at the Fiesta Latina concert that was held at the White House on Tuesday.

According to The New York Times, the event will be rebroadcast Thursday on PBS stations as part of the series “In Performance at the White House.” It is also to be shown Sunday on the Telemundo network.

QUESTION: Was the president’s dance out-of-bounds? There seems to be a lot of chatter on the Internet about whether or not Michelle Obama looked annoyed or gave him the cold shoulder afterwards. Thoughts?

YouTube video from The Daily Beast.

Tijuana’s Tepoznieves a tasty ice-cream spot


Have you ever craved some prune ice cream?

What about a dollop of coconut with gin, celery – or pineapple with chile pepper?

These are the kinds of funky flavors you can find at a Tepoznieves ice cream store. It’s a Mexican “gourmet ice cream” chain with two branches just across the U.S. border in Tijuana. The ice cream originated from a Mexican village called Tepoztlan where it was dedicated to the son of the God of Wind sometime before the Spanish conquest of Mexico, according to the Tepoznieves website.

When it gets hot like it has been in Los Angeles lately, I find myself thinking about Tepoznieves ice cream. The stores boast more than 100 ice cream and sorbet flavors. Sure, you can get your traditional ones like chocolate, vanilla and bubble gum. But why not try something more adventurous, like fig, cheese, rice – or tequila!

 The stores are cheerily decorated in a way that emphasizes the confetti-like colors of the ice cream itself. I spent a good hour tasting eight different flavors during a recent visit. The offerings include ice creams that are outlandish mixes of various flavors. “Xilone’s ice cream,” for example, includes the following flavors: corn cake, mango, peach, cherry, pine nuts and chocolate. And for those who find ice cream a little – bland – there are several specials that use chile pepper flavor to add a kick to the flavor.


If you go: There are two Tepozneives in Tijuana. One is at the MacroPlaza anchored by the WalMart at Plaza los Antojos, near the Morelos Park. The one closest to the border is in the Zona Rio along Blvd. Sanchez Taboada. It’s near a Sam’s Club. You can find them on this Google map: http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl&q=tepoznieves%20tijuana



ancient times.

Korean food in Tijuana


I finally made it out to this Korean restaurant in Tijuana after hearing good things about the food from two people I know. For my first meal here, I ordered a tasty “hemul enchilado,” a spicy seafood and rice dish (see below) accompanied with a bowl of soup.

Kimchi Mix is owned by a Korean family, and they weren’t exactly chatty but they did tell me that there are about “four or five” other Korean restaurants in Tijuana and that half of Kimchi Mix’s clientele is Mexican and half is Korean. I don’t think they get a lot of tourists, in part because of its location in the eastern part of the city.

While trying to learn more about the Korean community and kimchi in Tijuana, I came across a paper by two Mexico researchers about Korean investment in Mexico. Korean companies are among other Asian industries that have opened up manufacturing factories along the Mexican border. But the Korean tie to Mexico goes further back than that, according to a Los Angeles Times article about Korean Mexicans who arrived in the southern part of the country in the early 1900s.

Kimchi Mix has been around for about three years, and I had actually seen the restaurant from afar but wrongly assumed it a Japanese restaurant (quite a few of those here). It wasn’t until a local told me that there was a Korean restaurant near the Carl’s Junior across from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California, did I realize what  I had been missing. Interestingly, Kimchi Mix’s menus don’t include Korean tacos- at least not yet –  in contrast to what has become quite a Korean taco craze in Los Angeles and beyond. 

If you go: Kimchi Mix is open Monday through Friday, from noon to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m and meals are roughly $5-$7. It’s located in the Otay Universidad section of Tijuana, at the intersection of Calzado Tecnologico and Las Lomas, across the street from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California’s most western edge – near the Carl’s Junior restaurant. Go here for a Google map reference.



State to get $7 million for border violence

This is a story in The San Diego Union-Tribune about California being in line for federal funds to prevent border violence from spilling into the United States. All border states are apparently getting the funds, and it will be interesting to see how the money is used. Spill-over violence is something that has existed in a sporadic sense along the San Diego border but it seems to be getting extra attention these days, probably because of the drug violence that has been going on in Mexico.

State to get $7 million for border violence

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Clunkers and cash along the U.S.-Mexico border

carstjI have always been fascinated with how the car industry operates along the border. You have maquiladora factories set up in Mexico that piece together cars for export to the U.S. Meanwhile, cars that are stolen in the United States – particularly in U.S. border cities – often end up in Mexico. And, get this: Cars from the U.S. are sold legitimately in Mexico, but end up being stolen from their Mexican owners, crossed into the United States and re-sold in the U.S. market. 

So, with the U.S. car industry making a lot of news lately, I started wondering about what might be going on in Mexico in light of the slowdown in demand for new cars in the United States.

In the Mexican border city of Reynosa, where about 50 of 170 factories cater to the auto industry,  the slowdown has apparently forced some car factories to halt production about 40 percent, according to this article in the South Padre Island Breeze. Meanwhile, Mexico’s El Universal, reported last month that  president Felipe Calderon announced Mexico’s own  “cash for clunkers” program to promote that country’s internal car manufacturing market. People who turn in cars that are at least 10 years old will receive roughly $1,150 towards a new car that is not worth more than about $12,300. The country is setting aside about $40 million for the program, according to the article.

And this Los Angeles Times story about the “cash for clunker” program in the United States benefitting dismantler and scrap recyclers is bound to resonate with the dozens of junkyards located in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego, which have a brisk cross-border clientele.

The Los Angeles connection to Mexico’s Arellano-Felix cartel

felixThe U.S. media gets  flack from some Mexicans for focusing so much attention on the drug violence that happens south of the border.

“Why doesn’t anyone write about the top-level drug traffickers in your own country?”  was a question posed to me once by Jesus Blancornelas, the editor of Tijuana’s muckracking weekly Zeta newspaper when I first started working as a border reporter with The San Diego Union-Tribune nine years ago. Blancornelas, who regularly wrote about the Arellanos and other drug groups operating along the Mexican border,  had almost been killed in an ambush in 1997 that was later tied to the Arellano-Felix drug cartel.

To him, it didn’t make sense that so much attention was placed on drug traffickers and violence south of the border when it appeared to him those drugs had to be distributed through a centralized system north of the border that would require some degree of institutional corruption. I replied that perhaps it was a question of the scope of the problem being much larger in Mexico – a valuable transit area with weaker institutions –  than in the United States: Mexico had its capos, and the U.S. had smaller-scale dealers with lower profiles.

Still, his question lingered with me over the years as I occasionally wrote about the Arellano-Felix drug group’s activities in San Diego and Chula Vista. Recently, I read a story in the Los Angeles Times that explored a connection with the Arellano-Felix drug cartel in a 101-Freeway shooting in December, 2008, that left the the driver of a $100,000 Bentley dead. According to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the paper, the victim “might have been selling drugs here for the notorious Arellano Felix cartel.” (Read the article here)

I thought that when I took a job in Los Angeles last year I had left the Arellanos behind, but I guess not. They are, in a sense, everywhere.


Photo of car dealership in Los Angeles that has no known connection to the Arellano-Felix drug group whatsoever.