Mexico: Tijuna 10/11

One month after ‘Sept 11’ I arrived at LA after a long flight from Sydney.   Intense security checks meant it was hours before I arrived at the Downtown Greyhound bus station. Once on board the south bound bus, orders were barked to sit down and not to leave your seat or stand up.  Threats of ‘automatic lock down’ were delivered in a chilling recorded voice.  It was tempting to get up to see what it meant but the warning was serious and I wanted to return to the US.   An uneventful trip all the way to the Mexican border  – no ‘lock downs’, no terrorists just ordinary if a  little nervous, passengers going my way.   A transfer bus took people across the border, the driver refused to stop for my Australian passport to be stamped  –  so no visa and into Mexico, illegally!

Sydney to Tijuna in one hit and I was exhausted but glad to finally be in Mexico even if it was this sprawling, ugly city nestling up to the US border.  I found a room up some dodgy stairs, next to a disco, it was cheap and it had a bed and I couldn’t walk any further.  I fell onto the bed with loud, raucous pop music shaking the walls and flashing neon lights highlighting the marks on the walls and slept instantly!

By day, it was still ugly and sprawling but despite its squalor, poverty and vulgar commercialism, it had a sense of vibrancy and Hat Sellerabounded with humour.  Large billboards encouraged ‘Americans to buy their anti-anthrax drugs here’, while puppets of Osama Bin Laden, swung from shop doorways –  an almost mischievous determination to increase the sense of fear.

Street photographers enticed tourists to pose for photos with zebras – donkeys painted with black and white stripes!  Music blared from upstairs joints and traffic fumes made your head ache.  In the midst of this was the hat seller – nonchalantly displaying his wares while the traffic both human and vehicular,engulfed him.

I went back to the border crossing not to cross but to observe. Every car entering the US was searched intently, mirrors on poles swirled underneath, and all belongings opened and inspected.  The queue was hours long and I was glad that I wasn’t going back for another couple of weeks.  I spied a bar and sat outside with an ice-cold Corona and complimentary nachos.  A group of malnourished, tiny, Indian children shyly approached my table, their grubby fingers clasping beads for sale.  I asked if they were hungry – they nodded, eyePUPPET OF OSAMA BIN LADENs wide at the prospect of food.  I ordered more nachos and nuts – the waiter smiled with approval, as the kids helped themselves.  Four, very fat ‘gringos’ puffed and panted up to a table near us and rudely demanded drinks and a menu from my gentle waiter.  The women were laden down with the worst tourist crap you could find – plaster donkeys, hideous mirrors, their parcels and skin bulging …

 

Indian Child  The Indian children scampered to their table pleading for them to buy some beads   ‘Shoo, shoo’  they shrilled  as they flapped them away like flies, with a flick of their  pudgy hands.

Inhabitants of this tawdry, dirty, overcrowded place often struggle to exist with any sort  of dignity or to exist at all.

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