Tag Archives: tourism

What to do in Tijuana-Rosarito Beach-Ensenada Aug. 14-16

Picture 2Tijuana Eventos, a Spanish-language entertainment site for things to do south of the border, notes that this Friday-Saturday-Sunday (Aug. 14-16)  will mark the first “Reggae by the Beach” festival in Rosarito Beach.

It costs about $15. Here is a link for some information in Spanish: http://tijuanaeventos.com/eventos/details/1373-1er-festival-campamento-qreggae-by-the-beachHere is the same information in English from My Baja Guide: http://www.mybajaguide.com/eng/detail-events.php?event=2212

If you are looking for a more sophisticated weekend, the Guadalupe Valley Harvest Wine Festival continues through Aug. 23. This is in Baja’s wine country,  to the east of Ensenada. Check out this story in The San Diego Union-Tribune, with up-to-date information.

Add your weekend picks for south of the border in the comments section below:

Dancing away the tourism blues in Baja California


Can Baja California dance away its tourism blues?

U.S. expat Rob Cochran, 42, hopes so. Cochran, who lives in Baja California, said he was inspired to create this video dance project (a surprise launch at B.C.’s La Fonda restaurant took place June 28) to counter the coverage of drug trafficking violence and the Swine Flu scare earlier this year. The Baja Tequila Dance is intended to inspire tourists to see Mexico in a more positive light.

Cochran, who made Baja his home four years ago, has been working at the Hotel La Fonda for about a year and he told me it’s frustrating to get calls from people who cancel their reservations because they think it’s “too dangerous” or “because of all the violence.”

“Sure, there’s crime here in Mexico, just like anywhere else in the world. But when I look around, I don’t see bullets flying, there are no thugs waiting to kidnap me at every turn, and I’ve not known a single person to get the dreaded swine flu,” Cochran wrote me in an email.

Cochran, who told me he doesn’t work for a Baja tourism agency, nonetheless makes for a good ambassador. He wrote that he considers Baja California “the most beautiful and peaceful place I’ve ever lived.”

“I live without a car, I walk to work most days along the highway overlooking the ocean…I rent a charming little casita in a beautiful neighborhood for $350 a month that includes all my utilities, and my day to day life is filled (with) a variety of activities ranging from spontaneous dinners and BBQ’s at the neighbors’ , volunteer functions, fundraisers, fiestas and the occasional quiceanera or wedding.”

For more information on The Baja Tequila Dance  and how the project came to be, go to this site: http://www.thebajatequila.com

Mexican ‘rockero’ Javier Batiz performs in Tijuana March 29

Javier Batiz is one of Tijuana’s musical legends, and he is frequently referred to as someone who taught Carlos Santana how to play guitar. In Batiz’s web page, and in other sources, he is identified as a major figure in the development of Mexican rock. I heard him play once at the Tijuana brewery and he regularly re-appears around the city. This Sunday, March 29, he will perform at the CECUT at 4 p.m. as part of the 5th Annual Tijuana History Fair. The fair, which starts at 9 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m., is free and it will feature conferences, videos, art expositions, historical documents and old cars. For more information on the fair  (in Spanish), go here. 

The CECUT  – Tijuana’s cultural center –  is just a few minutes from the San Ysidro border. For directions to the CECUT, go here.

*Don’t forget the time difference is still in effect. 4 p.m. in Tijuana is 5 p.m. in the United States*

YouTube video originally posted by rockandroll1968.

Mercado Hidalgo a breath of fresh air in Tijuana


It’s easy to overlook Tijuana’s Mercado Hidalgo, which is hidden from outside view by thick, citrus-colored walls. But once you find the marketplace, it’s a pleasure to get lost in the smell of spices, the rows of fluttering pinatas, and the colors of tropical fruits. Nestled in the city’s Zona Rio area, not far from the San Ysidro border,  the market reminds me of those bustling village-style markets in Mexican pueblos deep in the country’s interior.

Mercado Hidalgo is comprised of  several generations of vendors with roots that go back to  the mid-1900s. Reflecting the region’s unique border identity, the market got its start when vendors brought produce from California and Arizona to Tijuana. That was before Mexico built better roads to connect Tijuana with the country’s interior. Now most all of the produce comes from Mexico and you will often find nostalgic Mexican-Americans stocking up on their favorite foods.

During my last year as a reporter at The San Diego Union-Tribune, I learned how to do multi-media presentations. Go here for a virtual visit of Mercado Hidalgo, which includes interviews with merchants, photos of the produce, a history of the market and a locator map.





Narco tourism possibilities in Tijuana: Tijuana drug tunnel tours?



There is a certain stigma attached to border cities where members of major drug trafficking groups regularly intimidate police, kill each other, and occasionally leave trails of dumped body parts.

In light of travel advisories like this one, cities like Tijuana have tried unsuccessfully over the past year to convince tourists that they aren’t likely to be the target of a narco shooting.  In Mazatlan, meanwhile, some taxi drivers are finding a niche in taking tourists to (the outside of) places believed to be owned by drug traffickers and to the crime scenes of famous drug battles, according to  this story by Marc Lacey of The New York Times.

While official tourism officials here might wince at the idea, other countries are employing narco tourism: In Colombia, you can visit a ranch used by now-deceased drug trafficker Pablo Escobar. It has been converted into a theme park.

Capitalizing on the narco phenomenom can be controversial, but a fair number of tourists would probably enjoy visiting the sites of one of Tijuana’s infamous drug tunnels (or others in Tecate and Mexicali). The art museum known as Casa del Tunel – the origin of one the city’s famous cross-border tunnels –  provides only passing recognition of its past incarnation.

Tijuana Tunnel Tours could be a mobile event, or it could become an actual museum. There is a warehouse east of the Tijuana airport that was the origin of a massive and incomplete tunnel said to have been built for Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman in the 1990s. This tunnel museum could include photos of other tunnels, explanations of how tunnels are found, and shovels and religious icons found at tunnel sites. Guzman, who remains at large, might be appeased with a VIP pass.

Photo of warehouse that was the entrance of a massive tunnel discovered in 1993, said to have been built by suspected trafficker Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. The last time I visited the building, it was being used by Mexican federal authorities to hold confiscated cars.

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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 gisluis.com 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.

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.

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.

China celebration in Tijuana this weekend

Kung Pao chicken (Western version)Image via Wikipedia

It may seem odd to go to Tijuana to eat Chinese food, but the truth of the matter is that there are quite a few Chinese food places here, and even more in Mexicali. And when you spend a lot of your time in Mexico, as I did the past seven years, sometimes you do get a hankering for some Kung Pao chicken instead of carnitas.

The Chinese community here usually keeps to itself, but Frontera newspaper reports that a Chinese-Tijuana festival will take place August 9 and 10, appropriately timed with the Olympics starting in China. The festival will take place on the tourist strip of Avenida Revolucion between Third and Fifth Streets. Expect to see plenty of Chinese food, artwork and the traditional Chinese lion dance. Entry costs about $2 per person.

I’ve always been interested about the Chinese community in Baja California and it’s one of the stories that I wished I had written before leaving The San Diego Union-Tribune. Here’s an interesting overview by Randy Sunwin Uang, a University of Texas-Austin graduate student, that I found on the Internet. It explores some the history of the Chinese community in Baja, such as how between 3,000 and 10,000 Chinese came to work in the agricultural fields of Mexicali during the first part of the 1900s.

For more information on the weekend event, go here.

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Tijuana travel: Teniente Guerrero Park

Tijuana can be a difficult city to navigate through, which is probably why most tourists stick to the entertainment and shopping area of Avenida Revolucion.

But not far from the frenetic downtown, Parque Teniente Guerrero provides an oasis of calm: Old men read newspapers, portrait photographers ply their waning trade, and chess fanatics duel it out on the concrete surfaces of about a dozen specially-marked tables. 

Parque Teniente Guerrero is a five or six block walk west from the intersection of Third Street (also known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto – see map below) and Avenida Revolucion, and it is one of the stops of a new Tijuana tour that aims to show tourists the city’s other offerings. Read a story, with information on the tour schedules, by The San Diego Union-Tribune here.

On weekends, local families bring their kids to play at the park and and listen to live music at a central gazebo. Visitors relax in wrought-iron benches and shoe shiners – “boleros” – put the sheen back into shoes that visiting Mexican-Americans typically bring in bagloads. The park is neatly manicured and full of large, shady trees. One of my frustrations with sprawling Tijuana is that it has no real center but this tiny park manages to evoke a traditional gathering place.












(The park’s chess players enjoy an audience and they would probably be amused to play against a gringo or two.)

A map of Teniente Guerrero in relation to Avenida Revolucion:

                                                             screen shot of Google maps page.