On May 1, at around 1 a.m., a friend of mine, Danger Dave, got stabbed four times in the torso on Calle Sexta. He was rushed in an ambulance to Tijuana’s Hospital General almost an hour after the attack. Dave is on his way to a full recovery. He claims the stabbing was unprovoked.
I moved to Tijuana a couple of years after a violent decade-long drug war that left the city with a horrible reputation. I have lived in the city for over three years now. I have learned that this is not the extremely dangerous city U.S. news depicts it as being. I have never been mugged or felt any danger, despite walking the streets of downtown late at night. The only ones to bother me have been cops, who detain whoever they want to try and extort money.
Thus, I became a crusader for Tijuana, a city whose violence was a thing of the past; I've been hopeful that this new Tijuana will flourish.
The drug war started by presidente Felipe Calderón in 2006 (and continued by current president Peña Nieto) provoked a violent era in Mexico, especially in the northern states. The only news coming from south of the border was of the narco-perpetrated decapitations, hangings, and the dissolving of human bodies in acid (by el Pozolero).
The most violent year for Tijuana was 2008, when, almost daily, bodies were found in the city as the war continued between the police and cartels.
“The two main cartels fought a war between them, leaving dozens dead, as one cartel claimed victory over the city,” says my friend Carlos. “The cops came, disposed of the bodies and kept all the guns, ammunition, and vehicles. That was the end of the turmoil. The war moved to other areas of Mexico.”
Carlos, a teacher of low-income high schools who witnessed the violence, says the Sinaloa cartel and the weakened Arellano Félix cartel presumably came to an agreement and violence de-escalated. He has considered Tijuana a safe city since the beginning of 2010.
Tijuana locals started using the hashtag #NoQueremosOtro2008 (“We don’t want another 2008”), citing the violence of past years while remaining hopeful that the city will remain peaceful. But violence seems to have made a comeback. Since 2015 began, there have been over a hundred homicides, most of them occurring in the months of April and May.
Decapitated heads inside iceboxes were found at the entrance of Playas de Tijuana, a corrupt cop shot outside his home, bodies found wrapped in blankets — presumably thrown from a moving vehicle — and more gruesome violence of the same nature has recently plagued Tijuana. Authorities say that the killings involve low-level drug dealers fighting over turf, as some bodies included narcomensajes — warning messages to others, typically the competition.
The murder of Luis Manuel Toscano (also known as “El Mono”) on April 9th could be the main factor for the surge of violence in Tijuana. El Mono reputedly headed drug sales in Zona Norte. He was shot early in the morning while eating tacos; the assailants were detained later the same day.
I met “Danger Dave” over a year ago at what used to be my favorite coffee shop near the U.S. border (Cafe Diogenes). We bonded over similar tastes in music. We started to hang out and going to shows frequently. David got the “Danger” nickname because of his lack of concern for safety, always living life in the moment, without fear of death.
David was born in 1990 in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, a border-crosser his whole life. A college drop-out, David crosses the border on a regular basis to work in one of the many stores in Plaza de las Americas.
The sudden death of his father in 2013 turned the party animal into a party freak. More often than not, David was showing up to work reeking of booze. He also started getting into bar fights, blacking out, and waking up bruised with no idea what had happened. For this reason, David decided on his 25th birthday that he was going to stop drinking...after one hell of a party (an event covered by Chad Deal in his Crasher column), of course.
Almost a month into his sobriety, our mutual friend, Paco, messaged me on Facebook while I was at work on May 1st: “David is in the emergency room, lo navajearon, Hospital General, I am going right now.”
It wasn’t until the following afternoon that Paco and I made it to the hospital to visit him. David was not in his bed, so we started asking around to see if he had been transferred. Cops that patrolled the floor informed us that he was in the bathroom.
David came out of the bathroom wearing a hospital robe, mostly open, holding an IV stand in his right hand. David shared with us a sly smile, “It's the second time I took a shit today! Fuck, does it feel great!” We slowly walked together to his room, which he shared with a burn victim. After some small talk, Paco gestured toward his roommate, asking if it was safe to talk.
The patient in the adjacent bed, who was seemingly asleep, was in his late 40s. He had third-degree burns all over his body except the central part of his torso; his face was a mix of burnt brown skin and pinkish flesh; his knuckles and feet were charred. The story David heard from him was that he tried to rob a car but somehow the car blew up, trapping him inside the burning vehicle.
One of the several cops who monitor the halls was in charge of not letting the burn victim escape. Other rooms had people cuffed to their beds by the leg.
“So...what happened?” Paco finally asked as I was telling David that there were rumors he got stabbed because he was hitting on a girl who had a boyfriend.
“A fucking random cholo thug stabbed me for no reason,” said David.
“I was at Mous Tache (bar), just at the show, when I went to the store on Sexta for a soda, the one write above Tropics [bar]. As I was on the counter about to pay, two thug-looking guys entered the store and went to the back; a third one stayed by the door.
“When I was walking out, the dude wouldn't let me exit; like, he kept blocking my path. I tried to go to the other side of him and he moved again. Suddenly, he punched me in the face. BAM! Un putasote! So, of course I tried to defend myself and I sort of tackled him.
"Then, I felt some punches in the stomach and I fell to the ground. 'I will kill you next time,’ he shouted at me as he was walking away. I got up, went to grab my soda, and the store clerk told me to go get in a taxi to the hospital, that I had just been stabbed. I looked down and saw that I was bleeding a lot. I took a few steps and sat down outside the store. No one was helping me.
“Out of nowhere, el Silverking [David's friend Jerry] found me on the ground and picked me up. If it wasn't for him, I would have bled to death right there on la Sexta. The cops came around 20 minutes after they got called; the ambulance took another 20. On my way to the hospital I thought for sure that I was a goner. If you have never been in the emergency room in the Hospital General, it looks like a fucking war zone. That is where my dad died, I thought I was going to have the same fate.”
“I don't die that easily,” posted David on his Facebook with a picture of him in the hospital bed giving death the middle finger.
A month later, David is doing much better. He was stabbed four times. One of the punctures went so deep that surgery had to be done to suture his small intestine. The store clerk and the guy who sells burritos have refused to tell him who was his aggressor.
Despite newspapers plagued with headlines about the recent surge of violence, the crime wave might be coming to an end.
The twin brothers of “El Mono,” Marcos Rafael and Roberto Carlos Toscano and a Daniel Eduardo Tapia were detained by state police and the Mexican army on May 22nd. The trio was allegedly responsible for many of the recent crimes. Reportedly, they were carrying a bag with marijuana, crystal meth, rifles, pistols, bulletproof vests, and ammunition.