My Aussie nephews had a first taste of Mexico - well of Tijuana - today. What will they have thought? We used to go a lot as kids, with my mother, who missed the vitality of Latin culture from when she lived in Spain and Italy. We used to feast on freshly-squeezed carrot juice in big covered markets, and load up the car with freshly baked bread.
A lot has changed since then. The areas just south of the world's-busies border crossing at San Ysidro seem less vibrant, perhaps because Tijuana has grown, and grown away from this area: many shopfronts were closed, and we saw no markets frequented by locals. The sad zebra-painted burros remain along Avenida Revolucion (my sister paid to have the boys photographed with one in sombreros beneath a dramatic painting of an Aztec god holding a nubile woman in his arms who appeared to be Frida Kahlo), but there was less of what I remember most vividly: tiny poor children selling things like matches or begging. There but for the grace of God go I, I thought. What did they see today?
I'm not sure who the cloth doll figures at top represent, all looking giddily to their left. Before it went out of business, Heath Ledger's place said "Tijuana makes me happy." Among Dia de los Muertos tchotchkes, a scuba-diving skeleton! The pretty glass ceiling of the barely used bus station and its empty mall. A man with many hats noticing us looking his way during a long wait on the border going home.