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Letter From the Editor: Welcome to TIJUANA WEEK!

TIJUANA WEEK is our attempt at fortifying the taco-laced bridge between Los Ángeles (the best in the country) and Tijuana (the best in Mexico). All of this week’s following stories were written by USC Annenberg’s students while in Tijuana.

12:14 PM PDT on June 6, 2023

    albóndigas de camarón in Tijuana

    Albóndigas de camarón in Tijuana. Photo by Paola Briseño for L.A. TACO.

    If I like you, I’ll give you a taste of L.A.’s Taco Life. 

    But if I really, really like you, I will take you to Tijuana. 

    Somewhere between the bites of guacamole-covered, mesquite-grilled asada tacos, you will find taco euphoria in Tijuana. For the last 17 years, I’ve been privileged enough to eat, drink, and be merry during regular visits to the city that counts the busiest border crossing in the world. My trips to Tijuana were sometimes for work, scouting tacos to be featured on Taco Chronicles on Netflix, sometimes just to drink some of the best craft beer and coffee in southern California. But most of the time, I was going down on my own, just to eat some of the best tacos I’ve had among the 17 states I’ve visited in Mexico.

    Most importantly, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the next generation of proud Tijuanense chefs, bartenders, servers, baristas, and more in the fronterizo city’s booming food and drink scene. Locals who love their city and are working every day to put some respect on its name.

    In late 2019, Amara Aguilar, a professor at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, asked me if I would be interested in teaching a “Maymester” class (a shortened and more intense class than those spanning a full semester). Since I’m constantly posting stories on my Instagram account about having the time of my life in Tijuana, a city that so many people think negatively about, it eventually came up: 

    “Would you want to teach a journalism class focused on Tijuana… in Tijuana?” 

    The class would give students a working experience to practice journalism surrounding the diverse themes of food, art, and culture, while exploring current issues in the vibrant border city. It would provide a unique international experience for students, exposing them to an important cultural, political, and economic neighbor that significantly impacts the U.S. in so many ways. 

    USC Annenberg students learning about the history of Tijuana's Caesar Salad with Baja chef, Javier Plascencia.

    By the end of this course, student journalists would be pushed outside of their own U.S.-centric “bubbles.” 

    Then, COVID disrupted life, also stifling the class. Fortunately, this year, Aguilar and Laura Castañeda, her professor colleague who also made the class possible, called me and said things were back on. 

    The result of those glorious two weeks heavily immersing ourselves with USC’s journalism students in Tijuana is L.A. TACO’s first-ever TIJUANA WEEK. A groundbreaking content package collaboration aimed to cover a city that has become a leader in food, art, and culture but gets overshadowed by its past violent reputation and notorious brothels.

    Tijuana is a lot like Los Ángeles; it’s a big, insanely busy city full of hardworking people with the biggest hearts if you give a damn enough to get to know them. A large percentage of them are immigrants. Some from other parts of Mexico but many from around the world, too. Sometimes they end up there by choice or by default, but however they get there, they always make the best of it and make Tijuana their home.

    Like L.A., Tijuana is often misunderstood and easy to judge. Unless you were raised there or have taken the time to embrace everything it offers in terms of people, culture, food, and drink. 

    I often tell people who abide by the Taco Life, if you are paying the high cost of living in Southern California and not taking advantage of the fact that you can drive into Mexico in the same amount of time it takes to get from the Valley to Orange County during peak rush hour. You’re not doing justice to the insane access that we have to an entirely different dimension of life-affirming, delicious tacos. 

    TIJUANA WEEK is my attempt at fortifying the taco-laced bridge between Los Ángeles (the best in the country) and Tijuana (the best in Mexico). All of this week’s following stories were written by USC Annenberg’s students while in Tijuana. This class means a lot to me as someone who was rejected by USC Annenberg when I tried transferring there from Pasadena City College—even with a letter of recommendation from Jonathan Gold! My math grades were horrible, so I didn't get in, took my loss (then), and proceeded to drop out of college and forge my own path in this quickly changing world of journalism.

    Let this be a lesson, the [taco] universe always has your back.

    T.J. x L.A. because transcontinental unity makes tacos taste better, anyway.

    Let’s go. 'Amonos.

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