Tijuana Police Raid

Baja.com recently hired one of LA’s finest public relations company to pump Baja tourism. Since January 2012, there has been some grossly shilled hype about the food in Tijuana, and Baja is being touted as the “New Tuscany”.

Of course, there are non-believers:

There is no doubt sleepy coastal towns such as Todos Santos offer the rat race a fantastic chance at being itinerants, but to actually visit Tijuana (or other border towns such Mexicali) for a puffy taco? What’s the phrase for “no fucking way” in Spanish?

Peep a “gourmet” Mexicali restaurant:

O yah… We’re living large now. Did everyone know there are over 120 Chinese restaurants in Mexicali? And the city’s most well loved, well known dish is arroz frito chino? That the “C” is no longer capitalized because, well, it’s become xerox/kleenex?

Now, the realities of border crossing — A few years ago, I tagged along with a Latino and some pals to Ensenada for the hyped “lobster fest”. I remember the greencard holding Spanish speaker fearlessly arguing with the traffic polizia after getting pulled over 10 minutes out of the crossing. He shrugged off the encounter, and everyone had their merry ways with US$10 lobsters later in the evening. More recently, I was not so lucky. A $10 lobster meal turned into $50 lobster meal after repeated wallet rapery by the police. On that trip, I was pulled over 3 times in a clapped out Japanese car. One local constable was so brazen, and Godless, he whipped out a bible as his billfold. Keep it corrupt, Tijuana. Couple of weeks ago, I visited Mexicali again for work. Same shit, different day. Trying to help the Mexicali business community? Screw you, give me “twenty dollars” — which happens to supposedly be the only English the poliziaman speaks during the shake down. What kills me is the police doesn’t just try to stick it to gringos in Minis; everybody gets hassled, even the natives with Baja plates. Why would anyone drive 4 hours round trip, get stuck at the border return for another hour and a half, just to eat some local shell fish, when far tastier crustacean can be had at Seafood Village for US$10? When Tijuana says it’s readying itself for the tourist season, they’re silently telling you they’re prepped to take your cash. Even in Vietnam, a country always knee deep in corruption at the lowest civic levels, the police doesn’t accost foreign visitors ala Mexico.

God forbid you want to visit the Baja capitol after feasting on the Northwestern Baja coast. Check out the only connecting highway between the city which takes you in between the La Rumorosa mountains:

I’ve driven a POS stick shift 4wd type vehicle through mountains in Costa Rica, I’ve ridden scooters in busiest of Thai streets, and I’ve faught China traffic before the concept of red lights arrived in Guangzhou. I’ve done the Tail of The Dragon, and I’ve run down Tuna Canyon in a 5000 lb station wagon. That road above? Screw that, no way. This dude, along with early Nineteenth century Chinos, has way more balls than me. God forbid there’s an earthquake — kiss the only road goodbye. But it’s not the road, it’s the lawlessness of the drivers on the road. Apply to that vehicular anarchy to the entire Mexico-US border region and you have the number one reason why the border towns will never be a tourism destination in this lifetime. Then again, maybe the American dopeheads are the devils causing this tragedy?

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  • Sarah K. Taylor

    You may know a LOT about food in LA, but you know NOTHING of Baja.  The Valle de Guadalupe is an amazing, peaceful region.  Its taking some time- but they have been building it up slowly and carefully and it really is a beautiful place creating some very good wine and very good food as well. 
    It is not a “border town” nor is it a dangerous place by any stretch of the imagination.  This kind of post only serves to perpetuate the myths in the media re: Mexico and their drug cartel violence problem. I urge you to reconsider and visit this region before you judge.  By way of disclaimer, I live part time just south of Ensenada and truly love this wild peninsula and her people (Tijuana is another story all together)
    It is not necessary to drive through Tijuana (the only city with any REAL violence problems in all of the 1000 mile long peninsula) to experience Valle De Guadalupe and Mexican Wine Country.  Drive through the border at Tecate — the Ruta del Vino is right there- I promise you, it looks nothing like the Rumarosa Grade in your video (incidentally, not a bad road either on the toll road despite the video).
    There are some great people making a real, positive change for the future of the country.  I suggest you try it out before calling “Bullsh*t” on the whole venture.

    P.S. i did like your comment about American dopeheads- because truly, without the market (US drug consumers) there would be no profit and thus, no gangster/cartel wars.  On that, you are spot on.

  • sinosoul

    Sarah, 
    Thank you so very much for your insight! However, the idyllic wine region you speak of does not refute what I (and many vehicular border crossing visitors) have experienced firsthand. This post is simply to quell the notion that border towns such as Mexicali/Tijuana resemble tourist towns. There was no specific remark on Valle de Guadalupe, I’m sure it’s lovely.

    Crossing at Tecate? It’s no better: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=57908 That bajanomad (which surely you read) post was from last month. I stand by my stance firmly: visiting Baja border towns for “foodie tours” is asinine. Want to do La Paz & Los Cabos? Fantastic, but that requires flying, passports, ad nausea, and is nothing like what the current “Baja” tourism is promoting: easy accessibility to South Southern California.

  • http://blogs.ocweekly.com/stickaforkinit Dave Lieberman

    You’ve written many posts here where your credibility is stretched thin, but this one may be the worst offender. I debated whether it was worthwhile responding, because I don’t think you’ll actually learn anything, but I decided to because it may save someone else the trouble.

    Let me start with what you got right: the border crossings all suck, and they suck even worse in the last six months or so. The US government has decided to sacrifice half the lanes at each of the major crossings to people who have that ridiculous passport card, and to make matters worse, they’re reconstructing the San Ysidro crossing to eventually expand it, so a place that used to have 24 lanes for traffic now has 5 for “Ready Lane” people and 6 for people with the usual passport book. It sucks and that more than anything will keep Americans out of Baja. Even Tecate, which used to be reliable for never having more than a 20-30 minute wait, is up to an hour and a half these days.

    Now then… the rest. Look, the restaurant has “gourmet” in its name! That must mean it’s alta cocina, right? Ever been to Thai Gourmet on Oxnard St. in North Hollywood? How about China Gourmet on Broadway in Chinatown? Super high-end places, right?

    Of course, if you actually knew anything about the history of Baja California, you’d know that the reason there are thousands of Chinese restaurants in northern Baja is because Harry Chandler—you know, the legendary publisher of the Los Angeles Times—imported thousands of Chinese labourers to dig ditches to irrigate the southern part of the Imperial Valley, which lies (surprise!) near Mexicali. You appear to have ignored everything that’s good to eat in Mexicali, including their outstanding carnes asadas. You could have taken your American friends to La Carnicería on Justo Sierra or to experience the only-in-Mexicali Heidelberg on Madero just a block off the border at H St, but instead you’re complaining about holes in the wall.

    Also, you don’t speak Spanish; please don’t make up “facts” about it. The word “chino” is not capitalised in “arroz frito chino” because nationalities used as adjectives are never capitalised in Spanish. On the side of the road in the Valle de Guadalupe, you can buy un pay de manzana americano, with no capitalisation of the A.

    Speaking of the Valle de Guadalupe, guess where some of the high-end stuff you complained about Mexicali not having is? That’s right, on dirt roads in the wine valley. Your readers should go eat at Corazón de Tierra and at Laja, and go wine tasting at Monte Xanic and JC Bravo and La Villa del Valle, and then go twenty minutes away to Ensenada and eat the seafood at Manzanilla and Muelle Tres. If they’re still hungry, stop in Tijuana and eat at Misión 19 or the revitalised Caesar’s (yes, on so-touristy Revolución) or Erizo or Cheripán or any of the places in the zona gastronómica. You can go, too, but I assume you’ll hate it, because your M.O. is to be the “maverick” and you appear already to have made up your mind that nothing good can come from Baja California.

    The shrimp that they pull out of the Gulf at San Felipe and Loreto is light years better than the flown-in prawns they serve in the Cantonese seafood houses of Monterey Park. How do I know? I’ve had both, many times.

    Your hatred for Baja seems to be based on hassles with the police; while this does happen occasionally, it also happens here in the United States. Don’t believe me? I can post anecdotal evidence just as well as you can: go look up Tenaha, Texas or Quartzsite, Arizona as an example. For my part, I’ve never been pulled over in Tecate. We did go through the routine military checkpoint north of the first tollbooth in Ensenada, though, last week, and they were polite if abrupt, and let us pass without searching us. I’m a dozens-of-times veteran of the one south of Rosarito on the free road, and I’ve never had any issues at all.

    Also, going and doing a YouTube video after looking at Google Maps is not the same thing as actually driving from Tijuana to Mexicali. It’s not scary at all, on either the toll road or the free one—you just need to sack up and quit complaining about things you’ve never done. Incidentally, have you forgotten that Mexicali was rocked by a major earthquake two years ago? Both Highway 2 (free) and Highway 2D (toll) are still whole and standing. When you actually do go do that drive, make sure to stop at La Cabaña del Abuelo in La Rumorosa for their grilled partridge and their outstanding rabbit al mojo de ajo, dishes unavailable in Los Angeles.

    In the meantime, save the hatchet jobs for things you actually know about, like, say, Chinese food in the SGV.

  • http://twitter.com/USChuy Chuy Nomas

    I was gonna write a long tirade to try to persuade this so called “maverick” (yup I didn’t capitalize maverick) to stop writing about something he has not really experienced but Dave Lieberman already ripped you a new one for this piece of fiction.  It appears you compiled a lot of myths and drunken stories just to “bitch” about Baja because maybe you have not been included in the numerous trips that real bloggers, writers and critics have been on.

    You need a hug? Or just some balls? But more than likely you are in need of some taste-buds because if you have gone on these numerous trips you claim to have made, there is no way you didn’t taste something that knocked your socks off.

    $10 lobsters are not going to do it but you know what will, La Guerrerense in Ensenada.  I’m willing to put money on that.

    Valle de Guadalupe is considered the “New Tuscany ” not just by anyone but by Anthony Bourdain, a true maverick.

    Now go and crawl into a corner and pee on yourself.

  • http://twitter.com/CulinaryVixen Vickie McCorkendale

    We’re planning our trip now… San Diego, thru TJ, down to Rosarito for a night, down to Eneneada for lunch, up thru the wine country to Tecate.  Haven’t been pulled over in Baja, ever… been to Tecate more times than I can count. Looking forward to seeing how much BETTER it has gotten over the past 35 years. 
    Pussy.

  • http://twitter.com/CulinaryVixen Vickie McCorkendale

    Wow, thanks for ALL the reccomendations!

  • Terrence1

    The responses to this are predictable. People have a stake in trying to make the border into something its not. 

  • http://www.vistavillagepediatrics.com/ Pediatrics Doctor

    Baja was reinvented by themselves. Something amazing is happening. It’s the great undiscovered wonderland. Rolling hills, grape arbors and great chefs cooking very forward. 

  • LauraCollins

    Just a couple of things I’d like to add here… First, not sure you have been to Tuscany, but most roads there are as bad if not worse than the ones you describe in Baja. That does not make going wine tasting on the Italian hills a nightmarish experience. Second, “New Tuscany” clearly refers mainly to the wine production and the beauty of the vineyards. At a minimum you could have mentioned something about the subject instead of going off on Chinese restaurants. I suspect you know little or nothing about wine, Italian, Mexican or any other, so perhaps you just did yourself a favor. Third, I also suspect you are a quite lousy driver if you managed to get pulled over three times during one trip.
    In any case, writing a controversial blog always draws readers, so I can see what you are doing here. But please keep it a bit more real as your bitterness about driving in Northern Baja is quite unprofessional considering this is a wine/food related article. 


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