Classic Essays

Tijuana Impressions


TIJUANA IS the largest outdoor insane asylum in the Western Hemisphere — possibly anywhere.

It must be explained that I read, write, understand and speak the Castilian language. This does not mean that one can make himself understood in Tijuana. Castilian is a White man’s language, strongly influenced by 6th century Gothic; its morphology, especially the labial manipulations, is not native of, nor does it suit, the teeth (if there are any), tongues, chins, throats or facial muscles of Mexican Indians, who are of Asian derivation and who did not develop the idiom. Its enormous complexities, embedded in the dim past of the Roman culture, are not amenable to the convolutions and neural patterns of their brains, and the constant passage of tequila and scorching chile around the nasal and laryngeal passages worsens an already evil condition.

When I enter that fearful place my Anglo-Saxon physical get-up, usually within seconds of walking across the border, makes me a bull’s-eye for all the frenzied panhandlers in Baja California, some of whom have pedigrees that go back to Montezuma’s court. I never drive a car into the inferno; there’s something about an Anglo in an automobile that brings out everything satanistic in a Mexican. I accept philosophically being short-changed in a bus, since it is usually only a negligible amount. The buses, incidentally, have few working springs and Mexican highway maintenance consists of dropping large rocks into the ruts, the reasoning being that this makes the hole visible.

I calculate that the purely Spanish-descended element in Tijuana is somewhere below one percent. When the city is pulsating with dense mobs, making it nearly impossible to walk, my impression is that every ugly Indian in Mexico and every ugly American in the US have somehow made their way into the metropolis. What the place needs is another Cortes with 400 men-at-arms to march on City Hall.

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Source: Instauration magazine, August 1976

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