"Tijuana for soccer? No bro I don't want to get shot"
This was the reply of an acquaintance when I asked him if he wanted to come with me to Tijuana and check out a Xolos game about two years ago when the Xolos were still in La Liga de Ascenso, Mexico's second division. How things have changed in such a short period of time. The same person now is constantly asking if he can come with us or if we have extra tickets.
The city of Tijuana has been plagued with a negative stigma for years. A major drug smuggling corridor. Corrupt cops shaking Americans down for cash.
Vice border town for underage gringos to sow their wild oats, and worse. All of which is true and will continue to be. It is the nature of the beast being a border town. The constant flow of money and people will make it so. Not only Tijuana but all border towns from McAllen, Texas to Reynosa, Tamaulipas to San Diego and everywhere in between. Where there is a demand for vice there will be plenty of people willing to provide the product.
But the products offered are changing and being re-defined. Tijuana is quickly becoming a "foodie" hot spot with a wide range of options from road side taco carts to elegant water side fine dining.
An arts and cultural revival with expositions and galleries across the city, photo journalist and much more. The Mexican governments crack down on organized crime has been a brutal one with countless deaths but things are appearing to normalize for Tijuana. As I ask my cabbie coming back from a Xolos game he tells me that things have improved, "for the better one hundred percent from a year ago."
This is where I come back to soccer. Who would have thought just a short two years ago that people would be asking me to take them to TJ to see a professional sports team when all the news that was coming across the border was of drug wars and murder, NEVER.
Can sports rejuvenate a city? The answer is yes. Not only the economic implications of having a professional sports team, with employment and commerce, but the social investment made as a wholesome outlet for the city's youth.
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