If I were to create a map and redraw lines to better reflect the culture within our region, the map would be a circle that touches Barrio Logan to the North and heads down to Agua Caliente at it’s southernmost tip. The natural boundary of the Pacific Ocean would be to the West and the region would wave onward to the East somewhere around desert lands with Calexico or perhaps Tecate as an ending point. Within this circle there would be a strange man-made item called “the fence” where hard-working people would wait, push or cross in order to conduct work, commerce and family business like doctor’s appointments or Sunday dinners.
Such a map would also include a travel guide for visitors and the Top Nine Destinations For Foodies & Artists:
Chicano Park & Barrio Art Crawls: and the surrounding Barrio Logan. This place is a hip location to spend an entire afternoon and evening. Border X sells exceptional beer and Cafe Moto roasts its own coffee. Both places are great watering holes. There’s also a monthly art crawl when the galleries open and there’s plenty of poetry readings, dance-offs and music.
Taco Strip: The best Mexican food can be found along Highland Avenue in National City. This is where you can hop through taco shop after taco shop, in search of the best. If you’re on a “gangster tour” you can also enjoy Cafe La Maze where celebrities once stopped during the Prohibition Era to illegally gamble or drink before arriving at the race tracks in Tijuana.
Chicano History Tour: Along Highland Avenue you can also find both of Herman Baca’s old print shops where he fomented protests to fight for the rights of lowriders, taxi cab drivers and immigrants.
Lowriders: Finally along Highland Avenue (it’s a long strip with lots of important history), you’ll find the lowriders at all sorts of events and fundraisers, including their annual toy drive at Foodland.
The Mariachi Festival: For three years running now, National City has hosted a successful mariachi festival in March. It’s proceeded by mariachi workshops where youth come from throughout the States and Mexico to participate. Southwestern College in Chula Vista is the only higher education institution that offers a degree in mariachi.
Dias del los Muertos: La Vista Memorial Park hosts an annual Day of the Dead celebration on November 1st that is not to be missed.
Craftsmanship: Always, always remember your small businesses. They are everywhere in the borderlands, although admittedly, they are often overlooked in favor of big box retail stores like Walmart or chain eateries like Denny’s. The craft of beer is coming up with our friends in National City at Machete Beer House and our Brazilian beer makers in Eastlake, Novo Brazil. Tailors once were a thriving community. Take a walk down Third Avenue in Chula Vista to find tailors who can spiff up any of your clothing needs.
Dias de la mujer: Every year The Front art gallery in San Ysidro hosts a competition for female artists. Their works are then on exhibit and opening day is always a special occasion to meet the artists.
The Port of Entry: The largest land port of entry in the world, this border accommodates 50 million crossings every year. That in and of itself makes the border a tourist destination. Walk across the pedestrian bridge. Check out the washed out Boundary Monument #255 and take a peek at the national historic site, the U.S. Customs house. The railroad track is also famous for having opened up California to the rest of the country and created better access to binational Mexican-American trade relations.
The celebration of the Virgin de Guadalupe: December 12th is the Saint’s day celebrated with great fanfare. The most important destination is the Cathedral in downtown Tijuana.
The Pasejos: Or alleys off Avenida Revolucion are a must see. This area is burgeoning with young artists who are re-creating the world-wide modern art scene. It’s an international destination.
That’s only the beginning, but you get the picture. The Borderlands have a unique, some would even say mysterious, culture that is particularly rich in food & art.