On August 1, Mexico's San Ysidro pedestrian border crossing — long a favorite for American daytrippers heading into Tijuana — got a little less unregulated, as the country began running walkers through its newly built customs inspection facility. Visitors are asked about their reasons for entering Mexico, how long they intend to stay, providing they are not kidnapped, and what drugs they plan to smuggle into America upon their return. Their passports are stamped, and they are given suspicious looks by authoritarian customs officials before being told the enjoy their stay and watch their step.
Law-and-order Mexicans are hailing the decision to begin enforcing long-extant customs statutes. "If they're getting serious about customs, can ridding the government of corruption and stopping the wholesale slaughter of the drug wars be far behind?" asks Immaculata Nallevitez, a Tijuana resident. "For me, it is the dawn of a new era. An era of regulation and policy and the humble acceptance of long lines in the hot sun. Viva Mexico!"
But other Mexicans are less ecstatic. "My American customers aren't really interested in regulations and long lines," says Hector Bibit, owner of Club Chug on Tijuana's famous Avenida Revolucion. "If they want that, they can head down to the Gaslamp Quarter. Tijuana needs to be a lark, careless and crazy. I need the border to be as loose as their wallets after five Chugaritas. Standing in line only gives them time to reconsider their life choices."
Bibit is not alone in his concerns. Bars and brothels all over town were quick to report traffic losses of 20% or more. "For some of us," says Bibit, "the gate was worse for business than a couple of cartel boys burned alive and hung upside down from an overpass. Danger is one thing, but inconvenience? That's death for a party."
To placate the nervous tourist trade, Mexico's Dept. of Customs agreed to install a second gate equipped with a FastPass detector that would allow Americans to breeze over the border like before, provided they submitted to a background check and paid an annual fee of $50. "It seemed a very reasonable alternative," says Customs Official Juan Derlust. "We even licensed the use of Warner Brothers' sprightly rodent Speedy Gonzales to restore a sense of fun and fastness to the border crossing process. But strangely, the initiative has failed to attract much interest."
A possible reason for that failure was discovered last week, when DEA officials checked up on what was thought to be an abandoned drug tunnel running from a San Ysidro Super 8 motel to a Tijuana warehouse. "We're pretty sure that sticker wasn't there before," says an agent, speaking on condition of anonymity.