“We were at Fresco bar and walked downstairs towards the fountain to, you know, smoke some weed.”
My friend Regina tells me what happened on Tuesday night, September 15, at Tijuana's Plaza Fiesta.
“While we were smoking, we suddenly heard screams and a fight. I turned around and I saw a guy on the floor, two guys were kicking him, while another guy held him by the neck with a gun pointed at his head, shouting threats. We were scared and didn't want to be a part of it, so we hid. I didn't want to be a witness or get hit by a ricochet. We kept hearing voices and saw the group dragging the guy out of the Plaza. No idea what happened next.”
I was there at Plaza Fiesta and was hanging out with Regina before this happened. Somehow I did not see a thing. My Facebook newsfeed was filled with comments about how no one should celebrate “El Grito” since Mexico is in such a decayed state. I was there not celebrating Mexico's independence, but a friend's birthday. The president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was booed in Mexico City as he yelled “Viva Mexico!” outside the balcony of the presidential palace.
In Tijuana, the rain did not stop people from gathering by the statue known as Las Tijeras, which is next to Plaza Fiesta. Hundreds of people were there to see Alejandra Guzman sing, but the Mexican pop singer canceled due to rain. I saw the fireworks as I was arriving at Plaza Fiesta, I also saw two army trucks and an army bus with more than 40 soldiers. The crowd dispersed shortly after the fireworks at around 11 p.m.
A different friend was also there with his girlfriend at a different bar, Paralelo 28. “Oh yeah, we saw what happened from the balcony of the bar, it was a bit after 1 a.m. Mariana called the cops right away and gave them a description of the guy with the gun.”
My roommate tells me the story in the morning from his perspective. “It all happened so quick, for a while they didn't let anyone get out of the area, but then it all went back to normality.”
This is not an isolated violent incident in Plaza Fiesta: on July 25th, a musician from narcocorrido band Los Nuevos Ferraris was shot in public. The perpetrator shot him through the window of a bar. He fled the scene in a taxi libre. The musician was taken to the Tijuana General Hospital and survived. The shooter was never found. Friends were there at Plaza Fiesta that Saturday night; they all told me that everything went back to normal in a matter of minutes after the shooting.
Plaza Fiesta has had its ups and downs through its 35-year history. At some point it was also known as Plaza del Balazo ("Gunshot Plaza"). At the moment it boasts more than ten tap rooms — the center for Tijuana's best craft beer — and is the most popular hangout for young people; however, violence in the area might shift the Plaza's current popularity.
Violence is on a steady rise in Tijuana. The daily Frontera reported on September 16th that a man was killed in Lomas de Tijuana and a woman injured. The altercation in Plaza Fiesta was not mentioned. It also notes that there’ve been five murders in the past two days and more than 15 in the past week. Those are only the murders that have been reported.
(revised 9/17, 11:20 a.m.)