SAN YSIDRO – Residents of this border community waited patiently for an hour on Monday night to greet San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who had been sworn into office 11 hours earlier in Balboa Park.
When he did take to the stage of the San Ysidro Middle School auditorium around 9 p.m., the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
“Muchas gracias,” he told them in Spanish, smiling.
Tijuana Mayor Carlos Bustamante stood next to him.
Filner noted that mere hours after taking office he was already meeting with his Tijuana counterpart.
“This is more than a symbol,” Filner said. “We’re going to change how we see Tijuana, how each city sees the other.”
Bustamante said that the two mayors had to promote business to create jobs in the region.
For his part, Filner said their collaboration would be focused on more than business.
Filner said that region shared art and culture, and even a certain sports team.
“You probably heard about our football team,” he told Bustamante.
“They didn’t do so well,” referring to the San Diego Chargers, who lost their fourth straight game on Sunday, and have a 4-8 overall record this season.
Then he noted that Tijuana now was home to Mexico’s new national soccer champion, the Xolos.
“That’s our team,” Filner told the crowd playfully. “That’s what being one region means.”
The mostly female crowd smiled and clapped in approval, some holding up campaign signs. Older women sat next to youngsters, while people dressed in suits chatted in the back of the auditorium.
South Bay political and educational leaders were on hand, including San Ysidro School district trustees Raquel Marquez Maden, Yolanda Hernandez and Jason Wells. Long-time community activists were in attendance, including legendary educator Irma Castro; Andrea Skorepa, CEO of Casa Familiar; and businesswoman Bertha Alicia Gonzalez.
Several officials from the Baja California Peninsula traveled to San Diego for the inauguration, including a delegation from Los Cabos that included Mayor José Antonio Agúndez; and city officials Jesús Druk and Oswaldo Murillo.
“Bob Filner knows where San Ysidro is,” Wells said in introducing the mayor. “He understands what we are.”
Denise Moreno Ducheny, a former member of the state Legislature who represented districts that included San Ysidro, also introduced Filner.
She, too, noted his deep roots in the South Bay.
Residents first elected him to the San Diego City Council in 1987, representing District 8, which includes San Ysidro. It’s a community he would go on to represent for 25 years, first on the City Council then in the U.S. Congress.
The current city councilman who represents the district, David Alvarez, also introduced Filner.
“Sabemos luchar,” Alvarez said in Spanish, “We know how to fight.”
“En vez de pelear a otros, ahora vamos a pelear juntos con Bob. Será un gran aliado.”
Filner has long championed regional projects that benefit both sides of the border, and frequently visits Mexico. In April, he visited the organizers of Tijuana Innovadora to lend his support for that international conference.
Filner pledged to work with his Mexican counterparts to develop a “vigorous, dynamic region” able to compete on the world stage.
“We are not going to build more fences,” Filner said. “Instead, we are going to build bridges.”