This immense city at the northwestern border of San Diego County and Baja began as a ranch populated by a few hundred Mexican people. The city itself was founded on July 11, 1889. In 1911, during the Mexican revolution, revolutionaries claiming loyalty to Ricardo Flores Magon took control of the the city for shortly over a month. Federal troops then arrived. Assisted by local loyal militia known as the “defensores de Tijuana,”,: the defenders of Tijuana, the rebels were sent packing to the United States, where they were arrested by the U.S. Army.
From this point, Tijuana remained fairly low-key until the 1920s, when Prohibition in the United States changed all that. The Agua Caliente Racetrack and Casino opened in Tijuana in 1929; alcohol was abundant and the people were – as they are now — friendly and welcoming; Americans flooded into Tijuana by the truckload. It was boom-time…until Prohibition was repealed. Tijuana settled back, becoming a brief stopping place for those passing through to Baja’s outback,or for those seeking trinkets to prove that they had actually been to Mexico.
Over the years, Tijuana’s history with tourism has fluctuated as have the tides of political parties, global economics and industrial development. However, in the 1970s and 80s, and more recently in the early part of the new century, the region boomed. Tourism flourished, as did ‘maquiladoras’ (manufacturing companies from other counties, notably the United States, in the free trade zone area). Population also boomed, and has remained huge even with the downturn in world fortunes.
Happily, gone are the days when the only thing Tijuana had to offer were bars and a rather unsavory reputation. These are the days when Tijuana has become hip, artsy and edgy, attracting a whole new audience looking for cutting edge food and culture. In its position on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, Tijuana is just minutes from one of America’s most popular cities (San Diego).
Now home to millions, Tijuana is the busiest border crossing site in the world (with an estimated 300,000 daily crossings –more than 50 million annually – at its two border stations) and a major hub for national and global corporations and businesses. Today, Tijuana offers visitors a safe venue to experience everything from world-class opera, to food festivals, to art extravaganzas. It no longer relies solely on tourism to bolster its coffers…but it recognizes the importance of this industry, and of world opinion.
Tijuana is also becoming a voice and a force in the Americas. Perhaps this is because it is an international city where cultures intersect: Besides Mexicans who have emigrated from other parts of the nation, there is a significant Asian community, as well as immigrants from Central America (notably Argentina, Cuba and Guatemala), the Middle East and throughout the world.
With the cross-pollination of cultures, everything from art to food to sports flourishes. In its hidden markets and alley-ways, some of Mexico’s finest pottery, jewelry and leather wares are sold; in its modern venues, world-class exhibitions, operas and ballets are enacted. And the food scene in Tijuana is receiving global attention – most recently from food experts including Anthony Bourdain, host of No Reservations, renowned chef Rick Bayless and Food Network’s Chuck Hughes.
With Wworld-class shopping, high-end and low-end clubs, and dining ranging from cups of octopus from street vendors to some of Latin America’s most gourmet fare: Tijuana , might just be one of Mexico’s undiscovered touristic gems.