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Tijuana: Montana de Basura

Volunteer comforting a child, one of Tijuana's destitute poor living at the Montana de Basura.
Volunteer comforting a child, one of Tijuana's destitute poor living at the Montana de Basura.

San Diego is known as "America's Finest City." Tijuana is often thought of as one of the world's most dangerous destinations. What do you think happens when the walls come down?

I've spent a lot of time in Mexico since I moved to San Diego. I love to surf from Baja Malibu all the way down past Ensenada. I have spent time both recreationally and for work in Tijuana. How was it that I had never heard of the "Montana de Basura?"

Just 15 minutes from San Diego's border, the Montana de Basura, or "mountain of trash," is a smoldering heap of garbage that stretches for miles. It's home to hundreds – if not thousands – of men, women and children.

I will never forget my experiences there. One six-year-old child I met, Jorge, had lost both his parents and was now being taken care of by his grandma who was given four months to live due to cancer.

Surrounded by beautiful hills and the smell of burning trash, I sat down and wept. I wished I could be Jorge's new dad. I wished there weren't so many walls that separated us. And most of all I thanked God for all that I had...wondering the best way to share it.

We all have walls. Some are built of wood, some brick, and others are ideas. Walls are meant to keep us safe and separate from harm. But the more walls we build, the further we become from one another. Are we often so busy judging people and hiding from the world that we forget to feel? To care?

Thirty minutes away from my home in San Diego, there are hundreds of people doing whatever they can to get some clean water to bring home to their children. San Diego is beautiful and blessed. Now let's be good neighbors.

Editor's note: Opportunities exist to donate/volunteer with organizations working in this area of Tijuana. Here are just a couple: healingheartsacrossborders.com, responsiblityonline.org.

Check out Paul's site for Tijuana traveling tips: inthecitysandiego.com.

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Volunteer comforting a child, one of Tijuana's destitute poor living at the Montana de Basura.
Volunteer comforting a child, one of Tijuana's destitute poor living at the Montana de Basura.

San Diego is known as "America's Finest City." Tijuana is often thought of as one of the world's most dangerous destinations. What do you think happens when the walls come down?

I've spent a lot of time in Mexico since I moved to San Diego. I love to surf from Baja Malibu all the way down past Ensenada. I have spent time both recreationally and for work in Tijuana. How was it that I had never heard of the "Montana de Basura?"

Just 15 minutes from San Diego's border, the Montana de Basura, or "mountain of trash," is a smoldering heap of garbage that stretches for miles. It's home to hundreds – if not thousands – of men, women and children.

I will never forget my experiences there. One six-year-old child I met, Jorge, had lost both his parents and was now being taken care of by his grandma who was given four months to live due to cancer.

Surrounded by beautiful hills and the smell of burning trash, I sat down and wept. I wished I could be Jorge's new dad. I wished there weren't so many walls that separated us. And most of all I thanked God for all that I had...wondering the best way to share it.

We all have walls. Some are built of wood, some brick, and others are ideas. Walls are meant to keep us safe and separate from harm. But the more walls we build, the further we become from one another. Are we often so busy judging people and hiding from the world that we forget to feel? To care?

Thirty minutes away from my home in San Diego, there are hundreds of people doing whatever they can to get some clean water to bring home to their children. San Diego is beautiful and blessed. Now let's be good neighbors.

Editor's note: Opportunities exist to donate/volunteer with organizations working in this area of Tijuana. Here are just a couple: healingheartsacrossborders.com, responsiblityonline.org.

Check out Paul's site for Tijuana traveling tips: inthecitysandiego.com.

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Comments
8

Okay, Mr. Krause; let's be good neighbors. What is it you propose we do?

Yes, there are lots of walls: steel walls, cultural walls, and the wall you walked through when you met the "Basuraistas." I think it is disgraceful that people should live like that, while we here, just minutes away, live the good life. But seriously, if the Mexican government, with its organizational resources, and the Catholic Church, which has been passing the plate down there for eons, are not doing anything to help these people--their people--then what are we supposed to do?

Articles such as yours, which drag the trash under our noses to remind us of the poverty south of the border are not uncommon. What I'd like to see is an article on what those who would like to help can actually do, that wouldn't be a waste of time or undermined by those in power who might resent our interference.

I have a buddy who used to bring used computers down to a school in TJ. Then the INS started getting on his case asking for all sorts of documentation, which he could not produce because he wasn't "in the business," so he quit. Efforts to help the Mexicans have been going on for some time, but it seems they are either stifled by the law, or usurped by the religious delusionals.

I think the only thing that is going to really help the Mexicans is the Mexicans themselves. Where is Emiliano Z. when you need him?

April 16, 2012

I think San Diego needs an Emiliano Zapata more than Tijuana. But you probably don't understand that statement.

April 16, 2012

Mr. Krause: I rarely comment on SDReader articles, but in an article that actually addresses an important topic (issue of poverty in parts of a neighboring city), it's really too bad that you've included an overly-dramatic and totally misleading statement like "Tijuana is one of the world's most dangerous destinations". First, it's completely untrue (Tijuana, a city of 1.7 million people, had a murder rate in 2011 about the same as Oakland, California [28.8 per 100K population for TJ, vs 28.2 per 100K for Oakland] -- would one say Oakland is "one of the world's most dangerous destinations", too?); second, such statements perpetuate false stereotypes that create even more "walls" in our binational community - painting a major neighboring city negatively, and making even more people (the public and policymakers alike) hesitate to visit or to find joint solutions to binational problems; and third, binational NGOs in the region can attest that increased negative perceptions (whether or not based on real facts) has resulted in REDUCED PHILANTHROPIC GIVING that actually might help situations like those you're trying to inform people about.

Please - if you care about this issue, use facts about the real situation in Tijuana. It's a LONG ways from being "one of the world's most dangerous destinations" -- but if people keep inaccurately calling it that, we only end up harming our neighbor economically even more, and that doesn't help any of us. Thanks for considering my comment.

-Kenn Morris, Crossborder Group

April 16, 2012

Excellent reply. I wish I had such patience.

April 16, 2012

Mr Krause......want to be a good neighbor? Come across and stay with us for a while. My family and I moved from our cozy home in Washington State in August of 2011. We have lived here in Tijuana (west side) and have been working very hard with the sadness you have described at the dumps. We don't just work at the dump but also downtown for food and clothing projects and with kids on Saturdays with "Breakfast Fiestas" We do much more than stuff....we build and sustain relationships. Walls? I have seen a lot of things go on in TJ here in the last ten years. There are no 'walls' that we cannot knock down, climb, or walk around to get what it is we want to do be done. There is always a way. You want to be Jorge' new father? I know someone at DIF that can help if you really wanted to be his father. It would take some time and some money, but it can be done.

Thanking God for all that you have is great and I encourage you to continue to thank Him constantly. I think Javajoe25 and crossborder_kenn comments are true and it sounds like God has put this burden on your heart to do something. Ask Him what it is you are supposed to do.......Scott Barnet, baja soul patrol

None

April 16, 2012

You sound legit. Good luck.

April 16, 2012

Good article. Thank you for both the article and what you are doing.

April 24, 2012

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses and encouragement.

Recognizing the problem is just the beginning to a solution. I agree that another sob story or pointed finger is not the solution we need. However, all things visible become light... just talk to every room's light switch how confident it is that the darkness will leave as soon as the light goes on!

The problems of poverty, violence, and others are rampant in Mexico. Sure, they are real in America and all over the world as well and should be adressed in such locations as well. I have published articles about the problem in downtown San Diego and even Ocean Beach. However, having personally visited Mexico on a weekly basis I can report that there is a difference. I have been robbed dozens of times and have paid the price to know what I know. Walk with me 10 minuetes past the border to Coahuila where we can purchase young girls for whatever you purpose, look up the "stewmaster" and his role in the cartel, or just do a simple read through official embassy reports and you will see that the problem is both real and critical.

What each of us is to do in response to these issue's is an individual question no one else can answer. Whether it is simply donating to a charity or actually looking the pain in their faces, is for each person to consider. I go every week and see each individual as unique. Whether its on a dump, in an alley, or in one of our non-profit centers (which I have purposely declined to be advertised in this article) I am joining many other compassionate individuals trying to make a difference. The question you need to ask is not what am I doing, but what are you doing.

Aug. 9, 2012

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