Six weeks in Tijuana

Observations from a remote worker

Thomas Brown


“You came to the murder capital of the world to teach on the internet?” asked an (understandably?) incredulous US Customs and Border Patrol Officer on my first trip back across the border. I had been in Tijuana for a week by this point.

I came to Tijuana because I can and because it’s cheap. (Yes, even though it really is the home of the most homicides on Earth.) I make a decent living as a wandering writer and teacher but it can be wildly inconsistent and managing my budget is essential. Prices in Tijuana are very, very reasonable for just about everything. For everything else, just go to the States for an afternoon.

The US Consulate in Tijuana.

The AirBnB I was staying in was at the edge of Rinconada de Otay, overlooking Murua Poniente. This is a working class neighborhood, small rowhouses separated into tiny enclaves. Every building in the neighborhood — no matter how large or small, clean or dirty, upper class or middle or lower, business or residence — is modeled after the US consulate a mile away: a private fortress.

A much, much nicer version of my alley about three blocks away.

Razor and barbed wire rings every balcony, bars adorn every window on every floor, every wall is topped with barbed wire or broken glass or spikes, as is every fence and gate.

The community is broken apart by small gated subdivisions of varying states of repair and color. The streets range from bumpy to cratered to resembling paved to nonexistent. Nearly half of the cars had US California license plates.

My apartment was down a dirty alley, behind a bolted and barbed wired gate, up three flights of stairs, and above the parts of Tijuana tourists don’t go to. I was staying right next to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the entire city.

I chose this apartment for the view.

My view towards the southeast at dusk.

The city lights at night are stunning from the rooftop patio. The mountains at dusk add magic to the view as well. There was a long valley immediately behind me…