Drugs, violence, prostitution – Tijuana does not have the best reputation. But that changes, the Mexican border town attracts artists and foodies. The wall planned by Trump looks self-confident.
You have to look a little closer to see them, the hipster gems along Tijuanas promenade Avenida Revolución. But if your eyes are sharpened you’ll spot them everywhere: vintage boutiques and vegan restaurants smuggled under zebra-patterned donkeys (“zonkeys”) and stalls with knickknacks. Mexico’s former city of vice on the US border is currently turning into a trend destination for urban gourmets and cosmopolitans.
On the Avenida Revolución, just behind the world’s most crossed border crossing, there is no longer one of those nightclubs to whom Tijuana owes its reputation as a scapegoat. For this purpose, the local microbreweries Lúdica and Teorema recently shared a tasting room here. 14 taps spill out of a simple, whitewashed brick wall, young people play the Jenga skill game at the tables.
Iván García Carreño, founder of the craft beer brand Lúdica Artesanal, attributes the upgrading of the city center to the unbroken innovative power of its inhabitants: “In Tijuana, nobody shies away from breaking conventions.” A construction boom has begun, he says, new real estate projects would often be presented in his bar.
Hipsters conquer empty shops in Tijuana
The old business model Tijuanas – the singer Manu Chao sang it once with the song line ” Tequila , Sexo y marijuana” – collapsed at the turn of the millennium. Stricter border controls after September 11, 2001, reduced visitor numbers, the outbreak of the swine flu virus, the US recession and the resurgence of drug violence did the rest. In 2013, 70 percent of the shops on Avenida Revolución were empty.
Space conquered by locations like the Pasaje Rodríguez. The shopping arcade is today a hipster paradise on two floors. You can browse the bookshop “El Grafógrafo” in wingback chairs and sip organic coffee, in the music store next door old vinyl records pile up. The “Kafé Mua” offers vegan cookies, and local artists have their studios between fashion boutiques. Her murals are a hit on Instagram.
Without any action this change did not happen. Since the crisis, the city administration and tourism authorities have been trying to attract new groups of visitors. Tijuana should be more than a tourist trap for drunk Americans. We rely on distinguished customers from Europe, who drink the Chardonnay from the region without ice cubes and appreciate the cosmopolitan flair of the city.
Young entrepreneurs meet US investors
Another target group is the affluent generation of millennials, who often grew up on both sides of the border. There are now events like the Startup Crawl, where young entrepreneurs meet US investors, and construction projects like the Estación Federal.
The former customs station from the 1950s was overhauled and now houses townhouses, coworking spaces, a deli, an art gallery and a small brewery. Once a month a farmer’s market takes place in the courtyard.
Organic vegetables thrive in the soft climate of the Baja Peninsula, and the region’s products include the best in beef and seafood; the vineyards of the nearby Valle de Guadalupe are the center of Mexican viticulture. This benefits a lively culinary scene: Baja Med, young, creative and not very traditional, fuses Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian influences with local ingredients.
Donald Trump’s wall does not cause panic
A former warehouse in the Zona Río district houses the showpiece of the local gourmet scene. The “Telefónica Gastro Park” is a market hall with small restaurants and food stalls, where there are stingray tacos, Asian-inspired Mexican Tostadas and cheese delicacies, in the center are the polished kettles of the brewery.
In the garden, guests sit under umbrellas, surrounded by the typical Northern Mexico food trucks. In the air is a jumble of languages from all over America, from the Colombian accent to the Creole dialect of Haiti.
Tijuana , always a melting pot of those who did not make it across the border, has managed to create a cool flair from the diversity of its influences. That is why they are approaching the US border wall, which President Donald Trump has been planning for months, with healthy self-confidence.
For a good reason: In 2018, the city left popular Mexican resorts like Cancun or Oaxaca behind – and received the World Travel Award for the best destination in Mexico . And of course, border traffic will continue, no matter how high the wall gets at the end.