I was backpacking in California for a month and stayed in San Diego for a week. One of the activity the hostel recommended while staying there was a day-trip to Tijuana. There was a couple of warnings given the reputation of that place. Drug cartels, gangs, prostitution, illegal immigration, fake medicines were a few of the things Tijuana was famous for. Promising!
I took the Tramway to the San Ysidro border crossing, about 30 min away from the downtown area. Tijuana and San Diego are very close to each other. I was shocked by how easy it was to cross from the USA to Mexico. There was only a revolving door similar to the ones you find at the mall, except it was made of metal. There were no passport checks or any kind of paperwork. I have heard of some people going to Mexico forgetting to bring their passport, can’t imagine the mess while trying to cross back to the States…
Conscious of the risk of traveling alone in Tijuana, I had only a few dollars, my phone and my passport with me. I changed my dollars after crossing the border and walked to the “Avenue Revolucion” about 500 meters away from the border crossing. This is the main street for tourists visiting the other side of the border. I sat at some restaurant terrace on the second floor and started to observe the scene. It was clearly not a safe place to be.
The lunch surprise guests
I was enjoying my lunch while two middle aged men cam to me and engaged the conversation. They were two American brothers, owning their own businesses in the States. They asked me if they could join me for lunch and drinks and I had no reason to refuse so I invited them to sit at my table. They were visiting Tijuana to do drugs (heroine) and fuck transgenders. That sounded like a bit strange activity for a family trip by why not. We had tequila shots and coronas for a while to start the afternoon.
Soon after, another guy came to us and start to chat with the two brothers. He ended up joining us for the drinks. He was a Mexican living in Santa Barbara. He came here to visit the dentist for a fraction of the cost on the other side of the border. He looked like a very tough guy, big and tall, tattoos everywhere. He explained being a member of the MS-13 gang and proved it with his tattoos and the knife he was hiding in his socks. I didn’t know much about that but could tell it was serious based on the two brothers’ facial expressions. I later learned from the internet that this is one of the most dangerous and violent gangs in the States. Anyways, he seemed pretty okay!
We had quite a lot of fun for the next couple of hours with tequila and beers. The two brothers were worried about me, solo traveler, innocent-looking young man in Tijuana. However, they couldn’t really help me as their plan to do drugs and transgenders would not save me from the troubles. So they asked the Gangster to “take care of me” for the rest of the day. He agreed so we left the restaurant together.
My evening with the Gangster
We started to walk around the downtown area. My new bodyguard told me that he will show me around what the town had best to offer. That sounded a bit dangerous to follow that guy but I did. He took me to the red light district a couple of blocks away. I remember visiting a few strip clubs. He had to store his weapon at the entrance and explained to me how it worked there. He even gave me a few dollar bills to tip the sexy Mexican dancers on my laps. Gangster tip: don’t put the bill in her panties right away or she will leave, you should enjoy it for a while first!
After a couple of strip clubs, we headed to the prostitutes and he asked me if I wanted to go with one. I kindly rejected the offer but he insisted. He even proposed to wait for me while I was with the girl. I kindly rejected the offer again. He really insisted that at least I could check a few girls and decide. I couldn’t reject more. We passed a few girls standing in a very small street and I told him that I liked the last one we passed. she was tall, slim, dark skin, with a sexy ass and quite big boobs. He started to negotiate the price with the lady. Her first offer was around 40 dollars as I remember. I was about to accept until the girl mentioned it was 10 dollars more for her to remove her t-shirt. It sounded like a scam so I rejected.
At that time, her pimp arrived. He was a skinny old man, half of his teeth left, wearing dirty clothes and his face was showing marks of a tough life. He tried to convince me to close the deal with his girl and even gave me a condom to convince me to go ahead. I rejected and we moved away from that street. I kept the condom as my only souvenir from Tijuana. Some people bring a Mexican hat back home, I brought the condom from a Mexican pimp. ‘
I walked back to the border with the Gangster. The 500 meters to the border that I had walked earlier that day in broad daylight looked much scarier at night. I was glad to be with my new friend to discourage all the beggars, crackheads, and thieves around us. We crossed the border together, the immigration officers seemed very surprised by the duo. We jumped back on the tramway, exchanged numbers, and said goodbye.
This was the strangest and most memorable afternoon of my California trip.