Feeling neglected, residents of eastern Tijuana may decide to go their separate ways



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Far from the slick downtown skyscrapers and bustling beaches of western Tijuana, Jorge Sánchez, 54, sells pallets of waste wood at the foot of a muddy, rubble-strewn road in the eastern neighborhood of Mariano Matamoros.

“The city’s politicians have abandoned us here,” Sánchez said. “The only time they even come to this neighborhood is when they are looking for our vote. ”

That could be about to change. State legislator Araceli Geraldo Núñez has proposed incorporating the eastern area of ​​Tijuana into his own municipality, to ensure that local politicians are more accountable to residents. The proposal would give the remote – and often overlooked – eastern outskirts of Tijuana and its vast outskirts of working-class neighborhoods their own town hall and police departments. Residents would have more say in other municipal services like garbage collection and road maintenance, she said.

Opponents say it is a power game, aimed at removing the influence of the current mayor of Tijuana, Montserrat Caballero Ramirez.

The mayor of Tijuana, Montserrat Caballero Ramirez.

(Alejandro Tamayo / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Caballero, who was in the eastern neighborhood of La Presa on Wednesday, strongly opposes it. She says it is not necessary, arguing that it would only add more bureaucracy and increase the disparities between the two areas.

“You have to go to Tijuana, not do two Tijuanas,” she said. “We cannot divide Tijuana into a Tijuana of progress and another Tijuana of second order. “

However, the idea is gaining ground.

A local exchange meeting in Colonia La Fuentes, in eastern Tijuana

Residents of a local exchange meet in Colonia La Fuentes, in eastern Tijuana.

(Alejandro Tamayo / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Baja California Governor Marina del Pilar Ávila Olmeda said the people of eastern Tijuana will ultimately be the ones who vote and decide on the initiative.

State Congress moved forward earlier this month with an analysis of the proposal. If they are in favor of the analysis, state lawmakers will need to ask city voters to make the final decision.

If voters approve, the areas east of Cerro Colorado Mountain would become Baja California’s eighth municipality. San Felipe became the seventh in November 2020 when he parted ways with Mexicali with overwhelming approval from 98.37% of voters.

Neighbors to the east of Tijuana are divided on how many Tijuanas there should be. But no one is claiming that the region lacks service and attention from city leaders.

“It only takes a glance to see the differences between this side and the west side,” said Isaac Martínez, a mechanic at El Florido, who said he was in favor of Geraldo’s proposal.

Tijuana city center

The monumental arch of Tijuana, at the entrance to downtown west of the city.

(Alejandro Tamayo / The San Diego Union Tribune)

In El Florido Segunda Sección, a dilapidated working-class neighborhood tucked away at the foot of a hill, locals avoided puddles of rain pouring down Monday morning as they rushed to their bus, which stalled soon after at an intersection flooded.

In some of the even poorer eastern neighborhoods, residents struggled to secure blue tarps covering their makeshift cardboard houses to keep their families dry, before heavier rains hit.

Many Mexicans from rural parts of the country come to Tijuana hoping to cross the border or find work in the city’s manufacturing areas. They often end up in eastern Tijuana, where a more rural way of life meets urban. Some of these residents build shelters wherever they can and live on less than $ 5 a day.

The neighborhoods here lack lampposts and paved roads. Crime rates are skyrocketing in eastern Tijuana, relative to the western part, where the concentration of police is partly focused on the safety of American tourists and out of the news. Some Uber and taxi drivers refuse to drop off tickets in some eastern neighborhoods after dark.

The promenade in Playas de Tijuana

The promenade at Playas de Tijuana on the west side of town.

(Alejandro Tamayo / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Geraldo Núñez, the state legislator who proposed the idea and also represents the region, says the creation of an additional municipality east of Tijuana will bring more resources and police response time to the abandoned area.

But opponents say an additional municipality has not guaranteed greater resources for places like San Felipe and San Quintín. As in the United States, local municipalities in Mexico are responsible for maintaining public parks, garbage collection, and public safety, but these services depend on the amount of taxes collected by the municipality.

Luis Benito Juárez Escalera, a member of a committee opposed to dividing Tijuana into two, said about 80% of residents in the area to be incorporated do not necessarily pay appropriate property taxes because they have either built their own shelter from fortune, or their property. rights are uncertain.

Small host communities at Villa del Sol on the east side of Tijuana.

Small host communities at Villa del Sol on the east side of Tijuana.

(Alejandro Tamayo / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Geraldo Núñez wants to call the new municipality “Nueva Tijuana”, separating it from western Tijuana at Cerro Colorado, a huge hill that houses cell and radio towers.

“And what would we call the other half?” Vieja Tijuana? Linda Garcia, 57, jokingly called the western area “Old Tijuana.” Garcia said she has lived for 35 years in the second section of El Florido neighborhood in eastern Tijuana.

On Monday, she was visiting a friend who sells burritos, coke and coffee from a cooler and makeshift stall on Calle Mariano Matamoros next to the Calimax supermarket.

“We don’t need two Tijuanas,” Garcia said. “We just need the government officials to do it right and tell the truth. The truth is, there have always been two Mexicos too, but we are not going to divide the country between the rich and the poor.

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