In centuries past, the California peninsula
was inhabited by tribes of natives, notably the Pai Pai, Cochimi,
Kiliwa, Cucupa and Kumiai. The Kumiai settled in the area we now
know as Rosarito naming it UACUATAY (which translates to "the
big house") and trace of their everiday life such as arrowheads,
stone kitchen utensils, mortar, etc., have been discovered. These
artifacts provide a rich source of information regarding their
lifestyles. Today, in the area of San Jose de la Zorra just 30
kilometers east of La Mision Village, descendants of the Kumiai
can still be found.
were from the area in the south of Mexico. They had built one
of many rich cultures during the time of the Aztec rule. Because
of deterioration in the quality of the land largely due to soil
erosion, the Mixtecs were forced to migrate to other states and
cities. A group of these Mixtecs went north to the border, and,
in 1860, formed the Colonia Obrera or Worker’s Neighborhood, on
a group of hills overlooking San Diego Bay. Many Mixtecs still
work in the farms surrounding the city. The border city of Tijuana
was founded in 1889.
There are different views on the origin of the name for the town.
One belief is that it came from an ancient Indian word, "Tiguan",
meaning "close to the water." Another view holds that the name
came from a ranch, Tia Juana’s (Aunt Jane’s) Ranch, owned by the
Allegro Family. The Allegro Family partitioned the ranch into
various family decided to divide the ranch into sections of a
city grid in the Tia Juana Valley.
"Tia Juana, the last town in Southern California
. The boundary line passes through it and cuts it in two,
the American half consisting of a single street of frame
buildings and a few scattered houses. The American part has a
live air but the Mexican part is the deadest place imaginable."
(Note: Probably the California town would have looked just as
dead except that, due to the floods in 1891, the old town was
washed out and the remaining buildings were moved to higher ground
near the border.) (from Let's Ride the Dam Train!, A sketch from
the pen of Hiram H. Bice, Editor of the National City Record,
edition of May 5, 1892). This probably was the beginning
of Tijuana, "from ranch to metropolis" (Rosas, 1998, "The City")
THREE PHASES OF DEVELOPMENT
of a railroad, from 1906 to 1919, to connect the cities of Los
Angeles and San Diego to the east led to a great jump in the tourism
and recreation industry of Tijuana. The railroad crossed the border
in Tijuana and Tecate, a city nearby, and the increased traffic
opened up new opportunities to the Mexicans. Tijuana became an
outlet for Southern Californians, such as movie stars and other
celebrities. They flocked to Tijuana and the surrounding area
to experience the fun and entertainment. Not long after, racetracks
and casinos sprung up. They helped support Tijuana’s economy during
the Mexican Revolution. This was the first phase of Tijuana’s
– Working North
phase, lasting from about 1940 to mid 1960s’ was a result of growth
in the San Diego area and a steady increase of Mexicans looking
to migrate north. The addition of two new military bases in Southern
California increased the number of people there who discovered
Tijuana’s entertainment. The town was growing at a tremendous
rate. Tijuana was the new place to get somewhere in Mexican life.
Numerous Mexicans from the south were looking to find jobs in
the agricultural industry in the southwest states of Arizona,
California and Texas. These jobs provided cheap labor for the
ranchers and the opportunity for many Mexicans to make a better
life for themselves. Tijuana was the way to get out of the country.
Tijuana therefore became a staging area for further migration
(Schatz, 1998, "History of Tijuana").
one of the most traveled and largest border crossings in the world.
In recent years illegal immigration from Mexico to the United
States has been considered a national problem. Even politicians
base their platforms on the continuing issues faced in Tijuana.
This border town serves a purpose that is not as highly publicized
but is very important to the well being of the country of Mexico.
Tijuana is a gateway for the restless and motivated to get out
and live in the north, away from the problems facing Mexico. According
to National Geographic, if the border were tighter and young Mexicans
weren’t allowed to escape then rebellion would break and Mexico
would become unstable. Former mayor of Tijuana, Héctor
Osuna Jaime said, "Mexico hasn’t had a big social uprising because
we have this escape valve, if there was no place to go, they’d
have to make a solution here" (Parfit, 1996, pg. 105). In contrast,
those who are not lucky enough to move north spend time peering
through the fence and envision what could be.
the three miles of fence can be intimidating, especially at night
when it is lighted. Illegal and legal crossings occur every day
and every night. The international marketplace on which Tijuana
has placed itself has allowed the border to become wider and easier
to pass for the many who wish to "escape" the troubles of Mexico.
Tijuana and its shanty houses and stores are built up to the fence,
like children with noses to the window, all longing to be on the
other side (Parfit, 1996, pg. 97). On the contrary, San Diego
has kept its distance from the fence and the very different Tijuana.
stage of development is still in effect, today. During 1961, two
new programs were started, called PRONAF, Programa Nacional Frontiero,
and BIP, the Border Industrialization Program. These programs
were designed to spur the growth of business in the Border Area.
From the BIP, a new industry began. Maquiladoras, assembly plants,
were a direct result of the BIP, an effort to entice industrial
and commercial business to the border. Tijuana remains a center
of production for textiles, electronics, and foodstuffs in the
which means assembly plant in English, was started in 1965. The
first one was built by Fairchild Industries. The Mexican government
needed to industrialize their country. They implemented the BIP
(Border Industrialization Project), now in 1998 there are thousands
of maquiladoras in Tijuana. There are many reasons why the industry
has taken off like it has in Tijuana.
is a large reason for the boom. Labor in Tijuana’s maquiladoras
cost much less than that of labor in the United States or Japan.
Many United States and foreign companies such as Sanyo, Ford,
General Electric, and thousands more have invested large segments
of their business in Mexico’s maquiladoras industry (Parfit, 1996,
pg. 107). Due to the estimated seven million television sets constructed
in this part of the world, Tijuana is considered the television
capital of the world (Parfit, 1996, pg. 107).
North American Free Trade Agreement, established in 1994, led
to the removal of some tariffs, taxes, on the import and export
of goods throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico. This
has also led to an increase in the maquiladoras industry.
The peso devaluation
in 1994 hit the area hard. The workers who had to deal with inflated
prices on goods were not getting the great rewards that came to
the large companies. More and more companies came to the region.
The maquiladoras and the businesses in San Diego have found a
way to coexist. Many of the workers commute back and forth over
the border. Some factories have "twin" plants that do the specialized
tasks in the north, and tasks that need labor intensive work in
River is a great part of Tijuana, and it is also a river of problems.
The river rolls back and forth between the United States and Mexico.
It runs through the heavily populated areas of Tijuana, then up
into southern San Diego and out to the ocean.
A major problem
with the river flowing through the city is the sewage. Due to
rapid population increases, Tijuana does not have an adequate
sewage system. In addition, most sewage drains to the river. An
estimated twelve and a half million gallons of sewage per day
rush through in the river. The dirty situation has caused friction
between the residents of San Diego and those in Tijuana.
faced is the use of each country on each side of the border. The
southern side is located in a concrete channel, and with expansion,
the ever changing landscape of the river beds have forced the
relocation of thousands of homeless or those in poverty. The maquiladora
industry is driving the changes in the river, more factories are
built that need more room, and the river is the one to sacrifice.
The north side has large open plains that are engineered to hold
the water. There is a saltwater marsh that is home to endangered
birds and plants. The estuary is important to the migration needs
of birds all along the coast. Contamination of the river threatens
the survival of many of the estimated 370 species of birds. It
is not only the sewage that is the problem for the Estuary; the
toxic waste and pollutants from the maquiladora industry have
also forced a quarantine of the area many times and threatened
the sanctuary’s serenity.
constantly raise the concern that the immigrants who are chased
through the Estuary cause the disruption of the surroundings and
more birds get hurt.
of Tijuana is short, but over the years the city has had the unique
advantage of forming and molding its own little niche in the world.
The tourism and recreation business was only the beginning in
Tijuana’s industrial future. The fence looms and casts a shadow
over the city of Tijuana. Maquiladoras are significant to Tijuana’s
success as a city and its role as a key player in the industrial
world. Legal and illegal immigration is a weight that many think
should be stopped. The United States government spends many dollars
trying to control the influx of Mexicans trying to find the way
to "Tijuana [and] The Border, [the] Magnet of Opportunity" (Parfit,
1996, pg. 94-95).