Baja California

The Real Reason for Tijuana's Walk of Fame

Tourist Attraction a Mockery for the city, giving latest star to narco series actor

In November of 2014, the city of Tijuana unveiled Paseo de Las Estrellas (a copy of Hollywood's Walk of Fame), situated on the main avenue of downtown, Avenida Revolución. The first star was given to Italian pop singer Laura Pausini. During the ceremony, Pausini told the audience she had never visited Tijuana before but she was thrilled to be chosen to be the first star. Laura Pausini is a 90s pop star that made it big in Mexico with her hit single "Se Fue." Laura is recognized worldwide as the most prolific Italian singer of modern times.

Photo: Matthew Suarez
Photo: Matthew Suarez

The reaction of the Tijuanenses has been for the most part negative, calling the Walk of Fame a sham and a waste of public resources. Many (from online comments) were in disagreement of Pausini's star, claiming that she has done nothing for the city, while just a few others defended the singer. A few weeks after putting the star on the sidewalk in front of the Jai Alai building (between 7th and 8th street), it deteriorated to the point that you couldn't read Pausini's name.

They have replaced the worn out star since then and have added sixteen more in the same area and other two near the arch on 1st street. All the stars given so far have been to musicians, except the latest that, for actor Rafael Amaya, the star hasn't been installed on the sidewalk yet.

The thirteen stars close to Laura Pausini's are:

    The guitarist Javier Bátiz is the only star born in Tijuana, made famous for being Carlos Santana's teacher. Batiz was born in 4th street and still lives there to this day. José José, a baritone known as "The Prince of Song," and Juan Gabriel known as "El Divo de Juárez," are very famous Mexican singers that most Mexicans young or old can recognize. Rocio Banquells and Emmanuel are also Mexican singers with extensive fame in Latin America. However, I grew up in Mexico and never heard of them. El Consorcio is a group of singers from Spain from the 90s, José Luis Perales, is a much older Spaniard, debuting his first CD in 1973 (I have also never heard of either of them). Martín Urieta apparently is not famous enough to have a Wikipedia entry, but a quick search shows him as the songwriter Mujeres Divinas, a song made famous by Vicente Fernández. La Original Banda el Limón is a group that has been around for fifty years and many jukeboxes in Tijuana have more than 20 records by them, yet I wouldn't be able to name you one song. I'm not really sure who Beatriz Adriana is, but of course I know her ex-husband Marco Antonio Solís. She is famous for her yelling "Ora Pues!" I have no idea why Raúl Di Blasio was nominated or accepted a star, he is an Argentinean easy listening pianist that has nothing to do with Tijuana. Raúl only got a star because he was in town to play with the next following star. Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán is the oldest and most famous folk ensemble of mariachi music, everyone should be able to recognize their songs. Hailing from the state of Jalisco, a star would be more appropriate in Guadalajara and should not be shared on the same floor (or even that close) to other offensive musicians. Julio Preciado is just a few steps away from the most important mariachi ensemble in history. I have never heard any of his songs and I do not intend too. The things I know of Preciado is what I read in the news, how he butchered the Mexican anthem in 2009 in a baseball game and that he sings narcocorridos. Sure! Let's celebrate this guy!

Julio Preciado signing the Mexican National Anthem

    The two stars near the arch are of Ramón Ayala and Julión Álvarez. Both are singers of Norteño music and some of their song tell stories of organized crime in Mexico. Ayala is known as the "King of the Accordion," he has been caught in narco parties, while Álvarez was mentioned by current president Peña Nieto as an example to follow, which caused a lot of controversy since his songs talk about police corruption, narcopride, easy money, shooting people to death, etc. And finally... an actor graces the floor. At least he is a local (born in Hermosillo, but grew up in Tecate). Of course I am talking about the great Rafael Amaya (I'm kidding, I have no idea who he is, I haven't watched a soap opera since Luz Clarita), from the popular "El Señor de los Cielos" telenovela, about the eponymous drug cartel lord, "The lord of the skies", Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Tijuana is not the first to copy the idea of a walk of fame. Mumbai has its own section dedicated to Bollywood stars since 2012 with statues and handprints of the talent. The Walk of the Stars is located around 8,688 miles away from the Hollywood Walk of Fame while Tijuana's is a mere 143.5 miles.

While the stars are sponsored by COTUCO (Comité de Turismo y Convenciones de Tijuana), the great idea of copying Hollywood came from the president of the committee, Miguel Ángel Badiola. COTUCO has funds from both private and public sector.

Photo: Matthew Suarez
Photo: Matthew Suarez

I invited local pseudo-celebrity and Tijuana tour guide of AlgoBien Antonio Ley, also known as Tony Tee, to discuss El paseo de las Estrellas. Tony Tee arrived at my apartment with a six-pack of Barrilitos beer wearing a COTUCO hat, looking like a grown up version of the kid from Disney's Up. Tony rose to fame for appearing in Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations for a Baja episode.

"Do you know who Miguel Ángel Badiola is?!" Tony tells me almost salivating with excitement as he is ready to spill all the beans. "He is the PR of Grupo Caliente! THE CASINOS! He [Badiola] is like Hank Rohn's right hand."

Jorge Hank Rohn is the former mayor of Tijuana and a prominent businessman. Always rumored to be involved with everything illegal but never convicted, Hank is like the Silvio Berlusconi of Tijuana.

"He [Badiola] invited me into his office to talk about the stars. He wanted me to talk good about the project, to write an article in a positive light, but I am not sold that easy."

Tony Tee wrote an article attacking the El Paseo de la Fama for online publication SanDiegoRed, but the article was taken down.

"You should have heard him [Badiola] talk! This guy is a religious fanatic, bien persignadito, always kissing a cross. After talking to me about God and what not, he switched topics to his boss [Hank Rhon], and I swear that he confused the two. Badiola doesn't deserve to be in any committee, much less a tourist one, he got his seat by puras palancas (Mexican pork-barrelling). The first thing he [Badiola] did when he became president, was to move people around and fired some. Including people that are close to me and have been working in COTUCO for years."

The article was taken down from harsh criticisms towards Tony's inaccuracy and personal vendetta. One of the inaccuracies was claiming that Juan Gabriel had rejected his star when they first offered it to him back in November. It was later revealed that he did not reject it, but did not feel well enough to do an event like receiving the star and the keys to the city and that he would postpone it to March.

"Do you think Juan Gabriel would make a song for Tijuana from the fondness of his heart? He [Juan Gabriel] said that he was too tired to receive the keys to the city! Who can be tired to just stand there? Of course there was money involved, once they greased up the deal, he was willing to do a concert."

Juan Gabriel gave a free concert on March 21st in Estadio Caliente were he sang a new composition specifically for Tijuana. The first lyrics in the song La Mera Mera are "The most beautiful thing about San Diego is... Tijuana." The singer has a history and property in Tijuana. After the concert newscasters tried to interviewed "El Divo" but he refused and hid from public.

Juan Gabriel sings to Tijuana

The other inaccuracy was claiming that Hollywood Chamber of Commerce was going to sue Tijuana for replicating the stars.

"I sort of made that up. There was an article online that said Hollywood was suing, but it lacked foundation. But I think it scared them off a bit and they changed the design."

The blocks at first were of white marble with a red star in a golden frame in the middle and two eight notes on top of the talent's name. Those proved to not be very resistant so they changed them to black marble. Laura Pausini's star was black during the photo op (with a single eighth note), but white when it was installed and switched back to black when the white one got deteriorated (but not the same plaque that was shown during her event).

"You want to know the real reason Tijuana has the Walk of Shame? Politics! Hank is affiliated with PRI (the current party holding power in Mexico). It gives Badiola a perfect chance to pose for pictures with celebrities and get name recognition. He [Badiola] most likely will be running for a government position in the near future. They also built the stars right in front of the recently remodeled Caliente Casino on ninth street!"

Most newspapers and online publications I have read praise Badiola's effort to improve tourism. But I have to agree with Tony that the stars are a sham. Tijuana already has a lot to offer to tourists, craft beer, street art, Baja Med cuisine, nightlife, etc. A copy of Hollywood's Walk of Fame does not seem to improve tourism at all. I have yet to see a single tourist posing for a picture with a star on the ground or even look down and acknowledge that they are there.

Tijuanenses have posed with the stars in a mocking fashion. This is Juan Carlos Arreguín, singer of Calafia Puta (a power violence band), posing next to Julión Álvarez' star.

Photo: Matthew Suarez
Photo: Matthew Suarez

So far, the stars seem to target a specific audience and it is not international tourists. Instead it caters to the people that flock to Las Pulgas Bar, which is one of the biggest bars in Tijuana for Norteño music fans. Las Pulgas has been around since 1988 and it does not need a tourist gimmick to attract the thousands of customers they already get.

Badiola has been quoted claiming that celebrities of high caliber like Oliver Stone and Benicio del Toro will be getting their star as well. Ricky Martin was confirmed to be the third star to decorate the sidewalk back in November, however he refused.

Photo: Matthew Suarez
Photo: Matthew Suarez

The statement on Paseo de las Estrellas Facebook page reads "Unfortunately we did not come to an agreement to give a star to Ricky Martin. We like to inform you that this project doesn't have any lucrative ends, but we do it to improve the image of the city and attract tourism. At the moment, none of the 2 artists have been paid but did it as a thank you. We know that the economy of the region is delicate and paying stratospheric amounts of money is impossible."

This made it seem like Ricky Martin not only refused the honor of getting a star in Tijuana but also asked for large amounts of money to do so.

After drinking the beers, I went with Tony Tee to get tacos. On the way we discussed who would be appropriate to get a star (an ever lasting debate since the sidewalk's debut). The most obvious choice was Julieta Venegas a very popular singer whose origin is Tijuana (though she was born in Long Beach). As of now, there is no indication that Venegas will be getting a star anytime soon.

What do you think Tijuana? Who deserves a star on the sidewalk in Revolución Avenue? Or should they simply remove them all and work on fixing all streets?

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