As we cruised through the San Ysidro border, the hillside lit up with a variation of bright colors; corrugated metals, the scrap wood used to construct the shanty houses added a redefining touch to the Tijuana landscape. It was mid-day, the heat beginning to scorch. The rumbling muffler of my 1994 Subaru Legacy wagon purred loud like a prized antique diesel engine. The large presence of the green, white, and red flag stoically flapped in the smooth breeze, stories of border-crossing hassles, banditos, and corrupt cops all fresh in our minds.
The stereo blared Manu Chao’s “Welcome to Tijuana,” a catchy cliché leading us into a new realm, ushering us between two very different countries separated by fences and walls. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been to Mexico before, but this time it was different — this was La Frontera and we were heading into no man’s land: Baja California.