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Tortilla run: a day in Tijuana

Alex Vinson

We woke at 7 a.m. to the blaring horn of the propane truck " beepbeeeeeepbeepbeeeeeeeeep " and wonder if he will ever buy a muffler for that dang truck.

We dress quickly so that we can get to the tiangis early. We aren't sure what we want to buy, but we know that the best deals are had early. It's a short block to the next street where the markets are set up on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays but we manage to get distracted talking with some neighbors. We then ducked into a plywood shack set up as a restaurant for a cup of instant Nescafe and some hot atole.

It's cold out and the street is still wet from last night's rain, so embracing the hot cup of coffee feels good. The first vegetable stand we come to is pretty well stocked with fresh produce but my wife says "No, not here" Why not? "Look at the scale, it's turned toward the vendor, the customer can't see the weight that is being charged, we'll find another place that won't cheat us that way."

The next place is set up the same way but we load up with fresh veggies anyhow. When we get to the scale I ask in a loud exaggerated voice "so how do we know how much it weighs?" My wife winks at me and answers in an exaggerated voice so the vendor can hear "She will turn the bascula around so we can see." And she did.

Then off we go to find ballet slippers for my daughter. Not just any old ballet slippers, mind you, but for Ballet Folklorico. I support maintaining Mexican tradition for my daughter so she (her choice) is enrolled in a dance class.

Now the slippers are shoes actually, kinda like for tap dancing but they have a bunch of tiny tacks nailed into the front part of the toe and the back part of the heel leaving less metal in contact with the floor than taps do. Got that task done.

Refuel with chilaquiles and more coffee.

Then off to the Primero de Familiar to check on some pending legal action. We finally found a lawyer who likes to fight to win and the case seems to be turning in our favor.

Back to the apartment to pick up my cuñado (brother-in-law) and the señora that accompanies him and takes care of my sobrina. (niece) It's day 60 since his arrival. Recall he got a job nights, but, you guessed it, no alcanza (can't make ends meet). So the señora now works in the fabrica in the day and they pool their money and still are just getting by. They cannot believe that between the two of them they are making a whopping hundred dollars a week equivalent and they are unable to save anything. They are talking about " brinca la linea" so I load them into the car to take them on my standard tour of the border fence to discourage them.

They think the fence is this rickety old tin structure that is easy to climb over. I show them that once they get past the tin fence there is about 20 yards of illuminated, heavily patrolled no-man's land then another fence 5 meters high, then more patrol on the other side of that. As you drive west toward Playas over the hills you can see all the migra (Immigration Agents) just waiting to haul your butt back to Mexico if you try to make a run for it. Followed the fence all the way to the ocean to show them the memorial to those lost trying to cross illegally.

The memorial showing the names of those lost, their age, and the state they were from had been taken down and replaced with another, less profound memorial of just the first names. We watched the sun sink into the clouds that were hovering over the ocean and I commented on how the sunsets are just as pretty on the Mexican side and all solemnly agreed.

Back through El Centro to show them the bright lights and loud thumping music emanating from the discos, then through the crowded Cinco y Diez and finally back to our neighborhood. We loaded up 15 kilos of tortillas (my wife insists that they just aren't the same in the US). Dropped off our houseguests, waved good bye to all and headed to the border crossing.

While in line a vendor came by selling a big, plaster of paris rendition of the Last Supper painted with pastel glitter. " ¡Que divino!", my wife squeals "How much is it?" Twenty-five dollars, says the vendor. I am frowning, thinking at first that I don't have a garage to hide junk like that in....but seeing the glee in my wife's face, the anticipation, I had to laugh and thought well, dang, its almost as good as a black velvet painting of Elvis.....offer him 20 I sez. Twenty two, he responds. "Aw, I only have twenty", my wife offers. Sold!!! So now I have to figure out how the hang the darn thing.....

Published or Updated on: January 1, 2006 by Alex Vinson © 2008
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