Houses in the eastern part of Tijuana. The Baja California Congress is considering a proposal to create two Tijuanas by dividing the eastern part of the city into a separate municipality. / Photo by Sandra Dibble

Are two Tijuanas better than one? It’s a question a Baja California elected official hopes the city’s voters will support.

A proposal to divide this sprawling city into two separate municipalities has sparked fierce debate in recent days as it progresses through state congress. The problem divides the members of the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador‘s Morena and highlighting neighborhoods in eastern Tijuana that struggle with high rates of crime, drug addiction and poverty and poor municipal services.

The lawmaker of the state defending the idea, Araceli Geraldo Núñez, argues the inhabitants of the eastern neighborhoods of Tijuana have been abandoned and suffer from inadequate garbage collection, street lighting, schools, hospitals, recreation centers and sports facilities.

By having their own town hall, these Tijuanenses would get a faster response and more resources, she explained earlier this month when she officially presented the proposal to Congress in Baja California. Its proposed name for the new city: Nueva Tijuana.

Geraldo, member of Morena, represents the vast 14e Electoral district that spans much of eastern Tijuana – a key constituency due to the large number of voters.

But opponents of the measure, including Tijuana mayor Montserrat Caballero, also a member of Morena, backed down, arguing that Tijuana should not be divided. They say the move would only further separate many of the city’s most needy neighborhoods.

Eastern Tijuana is not the side of town featured in tourist brochures. It is far from the main cultural centers on the west side, the historic downtown and the traditional tourist district, the beaches of Playas de Tijuana and the skyscrapers and restaurants of upscale neighborhoods such as Cacho and Chapultepec. Yet for all its problems, eastern Tijuana is large and vibrant, dotted with industrial parks and low-cost housing developments. It is teeming with traffic and commercial activity of every kind imaginable – restaurants, hair salons, tattoo parlors, furniture stores, hotels and bars.

There was a time years ago when I drove there often. To visit friends. To cover stories. Or just to stroll through the animation mercados sobre ruedas – itinerant outdoor markets with colored tarpaulins that occupy blocks at a time. Over the years, I have come to see a new Tijuana grow bigger every day, fueled by the hard work and hopes of newcomers from all over Mexico.

Last Thursday, when the mayor announced that she would be holding a special city council meeting in eastern Tijuana to address issues affecting residents, I needed little encouragement to get to the satellite city offices. of the district known as La Presa.

Only four of the 15 city council members showed up, so there was no quorum.

“I know that a majority of citizens – not all – do not want to see Tijuana divided, Tijuana is for everyone,” the mayor told the row of reporters present. “We cannot divide the cities, divide the opportunities. Tijuana must not be divided.

In Mexico, the municipality is the local governing body, in charge of public services such as public lighting, waste collection, public security, maintenance of parks and cemeteries. Tijuana, according to the 2020 Mexican census, had nearly two million inhabitants. Lawmakers estimate that the boundaries of the Nueva Tijuana project would create a municipality of about 300,000 residents.

Some have criticized the MP’s proposal as simply being a effort to politically weaken Mayor Caballero. Others say, as well-intentioned as it is, that the idea of ​​dividing the city would not necessarily be beneficial for the residents of eastern Tijuana – and threatens to separate them further.

Former mayor Héctor Osuna Jaime, a longtime advocate for municipal reform, is among those fiercely opposed to the “Nueva Tijuana” proposal.

In a Facebook post, he argued that the real problem was the need to modernize the structure of municipal government to allow for greater transparency, make council members more accountable to voters, and empower municipalities to raise funds. funds directly through taxes.

“Just dividing the city in half means that instead of having one problem, you have two,” Osuna wrote.

Meanwhile, in the state capital of Mexicali, the state congress last week voted to go ahead with a proposal analysis. If approved, the last step would be a plebiscite to ask voters in Tijuana if they are in favor of the creation of a new municipality.

Also note

  • New details on a brutal kidnapping ring from Tijuana whose members are accused of kidnapping nine people and killing six last year has been revealed after a federal grand jury in Los Angeles issued an indictment against six Mexican citizens living in Tijuana. Union-Tribune reporters Kristina Davis and Wendy Fry used court records and interviews on both sides of the border to replenish an account of how the suspects would target American and Mexican citizens who they believed had family members in the United States able to pay the ransom. (AP, Union-Tribune)
  • An armed attack in Tijuana’s Colonia Nueva Aurora claimed the lives of three children, aged 4, 8 and 9, and their parents. The father, Gerardo Valadez, had lived in Tijuana for several years after being expelled from the United States and received regular visits from his wife and children, who were U.S. citizens, according to Iborn Garcia of the Tijuana PuntoNorte website. The FBI helps in the investigation, according to Telemundo.
  • A fire early in the morning last Thursday destroyed the Saint-François hotel, a unique piece of Tijuana history off Calle Segunda near Avenida Revolution. The structure was originally built at Imperial Beach, but hauled in pieces across the border in the 1920s and reassembled. It closed five years ago and was under renovation. (El Imparcial, Fronteriza de Noticias Agency)
  • Six migrant advocates from Tijuana were honored on Saturday at a ceremony jointly organized by Alma migrant, a non-profit organization in Tijuana and the Mulvaney Center at the University of San Diego. The event at Centro Cultural Tijuana (Cecut) was the culmination of a video project that showcased the testimonies of defenders and highlighted the wide range of efforts made by volunteers and workers in the nonprofit sector, including providing food and shelter, translation services, legal advice, education and assistance to LGBTQ + migrants and deported veterans.
A group of musicians from Oaxaca perform near the US-Mexico border fence in Playas de Tijuana.
A group of musicians from Oaxaca perform near the US-Mexico border fence in Playas de Tijuana in 2018. / Photo courtesy of Jose Maria Cardenas Camacho

And to top it all: An image of a group of members of an Oaxacan group frolicking in the Pacific Ocean next to the US border fence at Playas de Tijuana took first place earlier this month in a competition mexican photo, Mexico in Una Imagen, which seeks to strengthen cultural and national identity. He was shot by Mexican photojournalist José Maria Cardenas, known as Chema by his colleagues. He told me he took the photo in 2018 at a workshop, when he spotted the musicians as they were shooting a promotional video near the fence.