Home on the Border
By Tammy Charnow
For many San Diegans, all of Tijuana is Avenida Revolución,
a tourist trap of painted zebras, mariachis and two-for-one
tequila poppers. But for the people who call Tijuana
home, it is a bustling metropolitan area thats
growing faster than it can be mapped.
Like San Diego, most Tijuana residents are transplants
drawn to the city for the possibility of a better life.
But in San Diego, the good life is usually marked by
the regions temperate climate, nationally-acclaimed
beaches and laid-back lifestyle. For many Mexicans who
relocate to Tijuana, the city represents opportunity
of a different sort: finding a way to scrape money together
to cross the border, find work and forge a new life.
a half-hour documentary airing on KPBS Television May
9, looks at the ways these sister cities grow, and how
the architecture and urban development influences and
responds to people who live there.
The story is told through the eyes of urban planners,
scholars and architects, such as Tijuana architect Raul
Cardenas, who in the program tells the story of a man
who built a home in Tijuana.
He wanted just to cross the border, like everybody
who comes here, Cardenas says. But while
he was finding the coyote (smuggler of illegal immigrants)
to cross over the border he got a job at a maquiladora
(factory). So, in the maquiladora they gave him palletes
and the guy from the llantera (tire store) gave him
the wheels, and the guy built his house.
The next year, he has a second story. He even
put on plaster. Watching his DirecTV he says, Oh
man, its been six years and Im still here.
So all of the sudden Tijuana did not become the trampoline
for the pool, it became the end of the rainbow.
And while the chaos of this type of development may
seem distasteful for San Diegans who take shelter in
gated communities, Cardenas has a different perspective.
After you realize that its not only trash
that a family lives there you start looking
at the history of those buildings, Cardenas says.
And you start seeing the history of a family and
how it grows and how it becomes like a building block
of our own architectural muscles.