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Stories by Matthew Suárez

Mexico exits the World Cup

Americans come for the early beer, locals eat kimchi

“Estoy muy triste,” said my friend Joey in his poor Spanish after Mexico got eliminated from the World Cup. Joey (with his date) drove at dawn from Little Italy to downtown Tijuana to live the ...

Two hours from downtown TJ to bullring

The free bus to Tijuana's craft beer fair

“It started to rain!” commented Andrés “el Andy” Rodríguez, beertender and brewer at Madueño Brewing Co. I was perplexed. It didn’t rain in Tijuana or Playas the night before. “Not real rain, it started to ...

#tijuana tacolife

Tacos el Gallito, Ta'Karbon, El Nuevo Tecolote, Tacos el Dorado, Wicho's Tacos, Tacosteno

Yes, I’m one of those people — when presented with an amazing plate, I’ll take out my cell phone. Hell, I’ll even take out my DSLR and take dozens of photos before having a bite. ...

Landslide buries Tijuana neighborhood

Residents ready to lynch looters, contractor

There are neighborhoods in the hills of Tijuana that always seem to be on the verge of collapse. Narrow streets that lead up steep hills give you a sense of vertigo as you’re riding a ...

Tijuana does Hollywood… again

Local social media responds

Tijuana’s National Chamber of Commerce has unveiled its plan to build a Tijuana sign on the hill of Cerro Colorado similar to the famed Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. The proposed sign will be similar ...

Tijuana's ambivalence toward marijuana

"Legal in your country, but it’s not legal here."

“I’ve been crossing weed [into Tijuana] since before it went [fully] legal,” says Jorge Fierro, a 23-year-old Mexican-American who resides in Tijuana. “Marijuana in Mexico is sh*tty and you don’t know what quality or how ...

Maguana has gone to Heaven

Tijuana’s famous homeless woman dies

Homeless Tijuana icon, Maria Luisa Castro, also known as “La Maguana,” passed away on March 21 at the age of 61. Ladened with mental diseases and infections like HIV and schizophrenia, Maria Luisa died in ...

Tijuana morgue can't keep up

45 days to claim a corpse, but the state of emergency reduced it to 15 days

‘The smell doesn’t reach all the way to my house,” comments Diego Silverio, a writer and high school teacher who lives a couple blocks uphill from Tijuana’s morgue. “But [the smell] is unbearable when I ...

Irish reporters seek out border-wall prototypes

We were approached by federales a couple of minutes after filming.

“In Europe, all we hear is about Trump’s wall,” commented Eimear Lowe, an Irish reporter for RTÉ. “We came to Mexico to find out what people here have to say.” Lowe and Ken (her cameraman) ...

Tijuana's Chiki Jai goes bye-bye

Temporary closure was planned for famed restaurant, fire was not

I never had a meal at the famed Tijuana restaurant Chiki Jai, and now I never will. The restaurant burned down on January 19th. Founded in 1947, Chiki Jai (“little party” in Basque) was a ...

Self-deported to TJ

My friends called me stupid

My friend Jaime crossed the border illegally in late 2015. He didn’t climb the fence, sneak through a tunnel, or swim around the wall. He walked up to the Otay gate and told a Customs ...

Tijuana rain + garbage + rats = chaos

Planned water outage kicks in after the storm

Many Tijuana residents woke up on Wednesday (January 10th) to find garbage in the streets and no running water in their homes. The state’s water utility, known by its initials CESPT, had planned to suspend ...

Tijuana pedestrians in the war zone

Calle Sexta project delayed

When the clock struck midnight on December 31st, Calle Sexta in Tijuana still resembled a war zone, with half-dug trenches and seemingly abandoned equipment. Partygoers didn’t seem to mind as they stumbled from bar to ...

Foreign gas stations opening up to Mexico

Consumers happy to buy from companies other than Pemex

“There’s an Arco by my house. It’s the same thing, just with more people in line because the gasoline is supposedly gabacha,” says Linda Goodman, a Tijuana local. “The gasoline liberation allowed foreign business to ...

Tijuana Uber report

Almost three years in, car service has slipped a couple rungs

There is a vast difference between what Uber was when they started in Tijuana in 2015 and what the company is now. Cars were new and clean. Drivers used to offer water, mints, candy, or ...

Spanglish Christmas

Kind bikers, vegan meals given out, posada, shopping in Pasaje Rodríguez, Santa's Red (TJ Christmas beer)

During the holiday season, thousands of Californians head south of the border to join their families for a Mexican Navidad mixed with customary American Christmas traditions. In the Spanglish world, as with the languages, the ...

Tijuana's 21st-century taco cart has arrived

“I guess it looks nicer. I don’t think our customers care.”

The trend to design exteriors of exposed brick and finished natural wood has made it to Tijuana. Many of the new and remodeled buildings have that modern look, clashing with the old sheet-metal carts of ...

Transplanted Minnesotan's daily TJ hair show

"They were trying to touch my hair like I was some sort of messiah.”

“People touch my hair all the time without asking,” says Szavio Raaum, a 28-year-old Minnesotan who lives in Zona Norte, Tijuana’s red-light district. “You missed a perfect picture the other day. A group of schoolgirls, ...

Organ grinders show up in Tijuana

“I never had a chance to use a real monkey.”

Downtown Tijuana is a constant cacophony. Taxis, calafias (tricked-out short buses), and other vehicles never stop honking. Sirens from police cars, fire trucks, car alarms, and ambulances seem to always distract one’s attention. And with ...

To the tomb of Juan Soldado

Haunting remnants of last year's visit to Tijuana's popular saint

“Tell her that her grandmother, on her mother’s side, was a powerful witch,” said Amy Venezia, pointing toward Erika the veteran bartender at Nelson. “Let her know that she wasn’t a bad witch, she was ...

Don't drink the 7up in Mexico

Meth-laced bottles of the soda may still be out there after recall

Over 107,023 sodas of the 7up brand in all its varieties have been recalled in the state of Baja and distribution has stopped. José María Soto Gastelum, 35, died after drinking the soda bought in ...

Hamburger notes from Tijuana

Cine Tonala, Tras/Horizonte, Yo Mammaz Burgers, La Justina, Butchers & Buns

A hungry San Diegan can chose from hundreds, maybe thousands of places to eat Mexico’s fast food of choice, the taco. It only seems fitting that tijuaneneses should be able to eat the American fast-food ...

Big baby looks over Tecate border wall

French artist JR the latest to use barrier as canvas

An art installation by a French artist that goes by the name of “JR” was unveiled at the Tecate border with the U.S. on Thursday (September 7). Taller than the border wall at 30 feet, ...

Border candyman can...with one leg, no problem

“It’s been 20 years since I had the accident.”

Puente El Chaparral is the bridge that goes over the smelly Tijuana River that thousands of pedestrian border-crossers and tourists use daily from downtown to the PedWest border. The access goes through a caged dark ...

More Tijuana robberies, more murder

Morbid milestone reached August 21: 1000 killed

On Sunday, August 27th, a young man wearing a black cap, black shirt, and black jeans walked into a small coffee shop located in Colonia Buena Vista and pointed a gun at a customer who ...

New Tijuana pedestrian entry: a mix of Six Flags and prison

Yellow taxis still banned from both San Ysidro gates

“It looks like I’m entering a ride in Six Flags,” regular border crosser Yesenia Huerta comments after using the new southbound entry to Tijuana via PedWest. “It feels like you are getting out of prison,” ...

Border traffic Hell

Carmageddon, San Ysidro edition

Aviso importante para la comunidad de border crossers and visitors: prepare to suffer longer wait times heading into Tijuana starting late September. This is due to the third and final phase of the $741 million ...

2017 is turning into bloodiest year in history

Back to crime Tijuana

Twenty-six people were murdered the first week of July in Tijuana for a total of 793 in the city and a total of 1,023 in the state of Baja for the course of the year. ...

Tourists taking Uber assaulted by Yellow taxi

Tijuana public transit wars continue

A few steps after entering Tijuana through the San Ysidro border, you get hounded by the first barrage of men in yellow shirts and black ties offering taxi services. “Taxi my friend? Rosarito, Ensenada, Hong ...

The true cross-border spirit

La Taquería Vegiee 2036 Avenida Ocampo, Downtown Tijuana The word “vegiee” is misspelled, but the vegan attitude at La Taqueria Vegiee is fully pronounced. Vegetables pretend to be meat and seafood at this 100 percent ...

A $13 street-side massage in Tijuana

“Take off your shirt, lower your pants, and lie down on the table.”

Countless street masseurs ply their trade throughout the city of Tijuana. Most sit on sidewalks near popular areas such as parks, flea markets, plazas, and churches. Signs hanging around their necks read “Experto Sobador” — ...

Baja's Valle de Guadalupe on a budget

Photography, glamping, wining, and star gazing: all a couple hours away.

Two hours south of San Diego, around sixty miles from Tijuana, sits Valle de Guadalupe inside Ensenada, the largest municipality in all of Mexico. Dozens of wineries with tasting rooms and fancy eateries sit near ...

Gunshots at Chip's Bar

Tijuana’s Calle Sexta party street has turned to narco violence

“I almost had a heart attack. I just witnessed gunshots at [Bar] Chip's,” my friend Amayrani posted on Facebook at around 1 am after the incident. I caught up with Amayrani the day after the ...

Gateway between worlds

The border doesn’t have to move that slow.

“It’s like a multicultural limbo,” said Ken Terry, a daily border crosser. “In Mexico, I’m the gringo. In America, I’m the white Mexican. I’m stuck in the middle and seem to be a foreigner in ...

Pleasant ride on Tijuana's big-boy bus system

“Que tengan buen día!” the female driver shouted.

After watching police arrest some minor drug offenders from inside the huge modern bus terminal in the Zone Norte, I headed toward a bus in Tijuana’s new rapid transit system, named SITT (Sistema Integral de ...

Tip of Tijuana's garbage iceberg

Mayor takes hit for violence spike, gas jump, uneven trash pick-up

“It’s been since January that the trash hasn’t been picked up,” says Geovanni Zamudio, a 35-year-old high school teacher in Tijuana. “Garbage collectors usually come on Wednesdays where I live in Porticos de la Mesa, ...

The legs get stuck in your teeth

Tijuana grasshopper salesmen get bugged

“Buddy! Over here! Buy something, amigo! It’s all cheap! Free tequila shot!” Street salesmen in Tijuana usually try to shove things down your throat, whether you want them or not. They yell at you in ...

Trump border-wall project begins on beach

Chain-link fencing poses additional barrier — or does it?

The morning after Trump signed the executive order to build a wall (January 25), a couple of workers in a white van installed a 60-yard section section of chain-link fence on the existing barrier that ...

Korean tacos?

Asian and Mexican fusion

A Caucasian American and a Korean opened a taco shop in Tijuana in late November. It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but there is no punchline. KoMe is situated downtown on 7th Street ...

Gas-price hike protests in Tijuana

President declares there won't be any turning back

Gas prices went up more than 20 percent in Mexico on the first Monday of 2017 (January 2). Protests and highway blockades started the same day over what is being referred to as "El Gasolinazo." ...

A different kind of breakfast burrito

Thirty-three years on the same corner

Burritos salesmen walk the streets toting coolers in many corners of Tijuana. You can find them while waiting in line to cross the border, in small stores, or outside popular dive bars. The coolers contain ...

Mingus and poul fri among newest Tijuana residents

Haitian chicken fight song

Cue the upright bass solo in G minor. Enter trombones. Enter drums. Enter saxophones. All in a long crescendo. “My solo in it is a deeply concentrated one,” said jazz man Charles Mingus about “Haitian ...

I succumbed to Spanglish

Tijuana destroys both languages.

“Tengo que ir hacer laundry, then I have to study en la biblioteca,” I’m paraphrasing what the Latina students in my college sounded like. My first real encounter with Spanglish speakers was in Minnesota. Spanglish ...

Party hearty and then chow down

A late-night pizza stop in Tijuana

Despite the fact that there is no pizza in Tijuana that comes close to Pizzeria Luigi, there are many hundreds of pizzerias spread throughout the city. Many of them are commercialized garbage. Including many of ...

A pizza that’s better the next day is a pizza worth having

Napolito, a newcomer to Plaza Fiesta

When I talked to Juan Carlos Bucio for last summer’s Tijuana beer article, he described a vision of Plaza Fiesta beyond just beer. He envisioned Plaza as a daytime option for foodies, not just for ...

Go south for tacos, north for pizza

“That’s a great one, that one is also really good, or you could go for that one.”

I first visited Pizzeria Luigi in 2008. I lived in Los Angeles at the time, but I visited my brother in San Diego frequently enough that Luigi’s became a regular spot. I thought Luigi’s pizza ...

Tijuana’s transportation system in turmoil

Taxi drivers throw rocks, slash tires of new buses

“Bajan!” Anyone who has ridden public transportation in Tijuana has shouted those two syllables. There are no real bus stops in the city, the few that exist are symbolic. You can yell “bajan” at any ...

Life of a vagabond clown newspaper salesman

Tijuana's Pepe Nacho a little vague on the details

“But first, my presentation.” Pepe Nacho breathes in and places his calloused right hand on his ear, pretending he has an earpiece. It’s a Wednesday morning and Pepe Nacho, a newspaper salesman, has been out ...

Family feast at Telefonica Gastro Park

Breaded beef tongue or rabbit pibil?

It was a classic family outing with my parents, my brother, his pregnant wife, and their two-and-a-half year old son. My brother picked us all up. In the car we started debating on where to ...

Kokopelli rises from the ashes as Tras/Horizonte

Back from the grave and into my belly

I’ve known Kokopelli tacos since they started on a street cart on Calle Ocampo in 2012, and the food truck craze wasn’t prominent in Tijuana yet. The grilled octopus taco in a charred tortilla named ...

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