The United States has so many laws, it’s a wonder anyone can keep track of them all. Someone does, of course. He’s paid by the government and wears a uniform. Still, it’s a good bet that if you’re a US citizen, you don’t follow every single rule to the letter. Which ones irk you the most? The taxes? The drug laws? The drinking age? The speed limits? There are so many oppressive laws to choose from.
Luckily, the US is bordered by two more lenient countries. To circumvent any US law you happen to find inconvenient, take a trip down to Tijuana, just south of San Diego, California. Want to score some drugs (even prescription-free Viagra)? We found them in Tijuana. Want to drink but you’re underage? No one carded us in Tijuana. Want to speed over pockmarked highways until the landscape blurs? Well, we decided to drive past Tijuana because the city streets are crowded with drunk and horny tourists.
On weekends, underage teenagers (and overage slackers like us) escape the confines of the US for the freedom to drink liberally in Tijuana.
Hordes of Americans travel to Tijuana every day, often for legal reasons like sightseeing, art collecting, and practicing high school Spanish. On weekend mornings, whole families cross the border in search of burro rides and cheap gifts for the in-laws. It’s a cultural experience!
A trip to Tijuana requires two passes through US Customs . . . anything less is bad news. Exiting the US is relatively painless. Once we entered Mexico, the pace of life—and traffic—slowed to a crawl. As we inched toward our destination, we saw a sight that made us feel better immediately: the traffic going the other way. It looked more like a camping trip than a highway. Unshaven men ran around, bartering gasoline for food. Toothless old women gummed week-old candy bars. Children finally got to play in traffic. Vines had grown up around the vehicles in the breakdown lane. We think it was bougainvillea. Pretty. Impenetrable.
The sight made us feel better . . . until we remembered that we too had to return that way. To shake the image, we focused on driving, which turned out to be wise, since drivers on this side of the border follow their own rules. Mexican traffic laws aren’t enforced; they’re ridiculed.
Then we arrived. Tijuana! Smell that stench! Of course, Tijuana doesn’t represent real Mexico any more than Hollywood represents the real United States. Mexicans built Tijuana for the tourists, who’ve likely paid for every wooden sidewalk, false-fronted building, and aging burro a few times over by now.
You can find bargains in Tijuana, sure, but if you’re not careful or astute, you can overpay for anything from a two-dollar trinket to a thirty-dollar blanket. We skipped the trinkets, but felt drawn to the blankets. Real wool. Colorful designs. They’re useful, right? We talked one vendor down from thirty dollars each to two for twenty-five. You can do it too. Choose your purchases carefully, don’t drink the water, and always know the location of the nearest baños (toilet).
Tijuana is one of those places that encourage movement, and we’re not talking about dancing, unless you’re a teen with a good buzz-on. No, we were eager to get there to look around, but by noon, after a “gourmet lunch,” we suddenly felt the urge to evacuate. We saw what we came to see and did what we came to do. Also, we feared if we stayed any longer, our chances of getting ripped off would increase exponentially.
While we didn’t need a passport yet (a valid driver’s license sufficed), we did get the fourth degree when we finally reached the border on our way back into the States. Maybe it was the long hair and sunglasses. Maybe it was the car’s bumper stickers. Maybe it was the drug-sniffing dog.
Mark, after a day of drinking, smoking, and God knows what in Tijuana. This is not a person you want to let back in the country.
We were lucky, for once . . . and smart enough to bring back nothing stronger than tequila. You may be questioned, searched, or asked to recite the alphabet, depending on the whim of the Customs Officer. We recommend that you comply. Quickly.
Lessons Learned: If you’ve ignored our warnings and followed us to Tijuana, you probably don’t need our advice. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the border after a trip to Tijuana, you’ll do just about anything to get back to the restrictive, confining, safe, and clean US of A. There’s no place like home.
How We Saw It
Communication Breakdown: 4
Customer Dis-service: 4
Discomfort Level: 4
Grunge Factor: 5
Inactivity Guide: 3
Spontaneous Consumption: 5
Fun Fraction: 2/5
If You Won’t Listen to Us
Nearest Airport: General Abelardo L. Rodríguez International Airport
Native Population: 1,500,000
Normal Attractions: Shopping and nightlife, which covers a lot of ground, both legal and illegal.
Final Point of Interest: Bullfights are held every other Sunday between May and October. Go for the cheap seats or get close enough to see the shit stains on the matador’s trousers.