Baja California

How to TJ: Top 10 things you didn't expect about Tijuana that locals already knew

The other side of the border

TIJUANA.- The first thing people think of when they hear the word "Tijuana" is donkey shows, closely followed by violence, narcos, drugs, tequila and even death. None of these are currently happening in Tijuana at a rate different than any other major city, except there's probably more tequila and drugs.

But there are many things that this great city offers that not that many people are aware of. The border city, which is only 22 miles away from San Diego, had it's first major growth during the prohibition era. It's second major boom was in the 70s with immigrants that were on their way to live the American dream, crossing through Tijuana and many times staying there. Now it's on its third growth sprout, turning from a city into a metropolis. With more more than 2 million people and growing steadily, Tijuana is set to become Mexico's 2nd biggest city by 2020. Here are a few facts you didn't expect about TJ and that locals take pride:

1. Caesar salad was created in Tijuana:

It's true! The Italian salad staple was not created for Julius Caesar ages ago, it was in fact created in Tijuana in the 1930s by American Italian, Caesar Cardini. The Caesar Hotel and Restaurant still stands in downtown Tijuana on 4th street and Revolución where they serve "the original salad," for around $9 USD.

2. It's a great beach city:

When someone thinks of a nice beach city in Mexico they most likely think of Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos or Acapulco. Not that many people picture Tijuana having a beach, but it's actually a very nice one. Divided by the border wall, Playas de Tijuana is an extension of San Diego's Imperial Beach. There are also many beautiful beaches in the vicinity of TJ.

3. Tijuana is the 29th largest city in the American continent and the northernmost city in Latin America:

TJ is one of the most visited cities in the world and the gateway to Latin America. Because of its proximity to the USA and San Diego, TJ gets constant visitors from Americans and other travelers making their way either north or south.

4. The busiest border in the world:

With over 300,000 crossings a day, TJ is the busiest crossing between two countries in the world. A lot of TJ's citizens work in San Diego or go to school there, crossing everyday to do so. Traffic can get backed up, making the border crossing over three hours long.

5. Hollywood celebrities during prohibition hung out in Tijuana:

Tijuana's first major growth occurred during the prohibition era. All of the Hollywood elite that wanted to party and drink came to TJ to the few established bars. Many bars keep still keep photographs of old celebrities in memory of the time they graced their halls. Far from Mexico's central government and just minutes south of the border, it was a party refuge for the era. Hotels, spas, dog-track, private airport, golf-course, casinos and countless bars were opened to cater to the large flux of tourism. Even Charlie Chaplin hung out in TJ in the 30s. The most recent celebrity sighting was McCauly Culkin in 2013.

6. Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Tool and more played shows before they were famous:

Before making it big, many bands came to Tijuana to play, this included major bands that were relatively unknown. This still happens today. Bands that are on tour and have shows in San Diego often will play a second show in TJ due to it's proximity. Many have a better time in TJ's venues where anything can happen and rockers can be themselves (and mostly destroy everything).

7. It is the most diverse city in Mexico:

There's people from all over the world in Tijuana, making it very unique in every aspect. Not only there's people from all over Latin America that ended in TJ on their way to the USA, but many others come from Asian countries and there are some who are investors from Europe. Many people deported from the USA lie to the American government and tell them they are Mexican so they get kicked out to the immediate border, instead of sending them back to their country of origin. Most are unable to regain their past life back and end up in the streets of Tijuana.

8. "One of the most important new cultural meccas," according to Newsweek magazine

TJ's growing art scene covers all and goes beyond borders. The music scene is heavy, fresh and mixed with San Diego's and California's sound. The visual and plastic arts go beyond amazing street murals and graffiti. There's also a new cuisine named Baja Med mixing ingredients from the Pacific Ocean with techniques from around the world. Drink is also covered as new wineries in "Valle de Guadalupe," and new craft beer with ingredients imported from San Diego.

9. Carlos Santana, Julieta Venegas and more:

Though neither Santana and Venegas were born in Tijuana, both of their careers and successes started in TJ. Other famous musicians include the Grammy nominated, Nortec Collective and the Mexican Johnny Cash, Juan Cirerol. There are a wide array of musicians in TJ that play almost everything and soon might see the limelight: punk, norteña, trashcore, narcocorridos, experimental, digital noise, hip hop and way more.

10. Jim Morrison loved Tijuana:

And with good reason. It is reported that the legendary singer for the Doors used to hang out in Tijuana brothels drinking whisky and loving all women. An improvised poem by Morrison was unreleased until 2011 in which he explains what Tijuana and Mexico look like, though it doesn't give much details about his adventures.

matingas@gmail.com

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