Does that say more about us or them? A country infamous for gun violence with stricter firearm regulation than we do, warning gun-loving gringos not to bring ours down to México. I wonder if there’s anywhere on the Mexican side of the border warning “GUNS LEGAL IN UNITED STATES.”
Once you get to the border crossing, the Mexican customs facility is super fancy and modern. It even had that new car smell! There was a nice big “MÉXICO” sign with a giant Mexican flag. Crossing took less than five minutes.
Spoiler alert: crossing back into the U.S. that night would not be nearly as fun.
Navigating Tijuana in the car felt exactly like it did during my years living in the rest of Latin America. A fun mishmash of well-marked streets with clusterfuck intersections, and upper-class shopping malls mixed with working-class homes.
Our main objective for the day was going to the soccer game. The epically-named Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente—Xolos for short—were playing a home game against Pachuca at their righteously-named stadium, Estadio Caliente.
|Map of Liga MX clubs. Tijuana is by far the most remote.|
Before going to the match, I assumed the Xolos used “Caliente” in their team name and stadium name simply because it sounds cool. I didn’t realize it’s owned by Grupo Caliente, Mexico’s largest sport betting company, and they’re even the club’s shirt sponsor. Okay, I guess that’s fine. Plenty of big European teams are sponsored by betting companies. And the ‘C’ in the Caliente logo is probably shaped like a dog because that’s the Xolos mascot, right?
The team says it’s named after the ancient Aztec dog—the xoloitzcuintle—because it represents strength and all that. But I didn’t discover until we got to Estadio Caliente that the stadium is located directly adjacent to the Canódromo, a fancy dog-racing arena owned by the same company. When we walked by the racetrack to get to the stadium, it was packed with people writing on little sheets of paper, keeping track of their betting odds on the various dogs. It’s no coincidence the soccer team named after an iconic canine is owned by a company that runs a dog-racing track right next door. The “sacred Aztec dog” thing is all an excuse to make Club Tijuana’s entire identity revolve around Grupo Caliente gambling.
|Dog racing near the stadium|
The game itself was fantastic. Los Xolos were dominant throughout the game, and beat Pachuca handily by a score of 2-0. Despite constant warnings from Americans to “be careful in Tijuana,” I didn’t feel any more threatened at Estadio Caliente than I do at an American sporting event. In fact, the fans at the game represented a great cross-section of the Mexican population. Rich, poor; light-skinned, dark-skinned; fans living in California, and fans living in Baja California. Soccer is the great equalizer.
|"Welcome to America"|
You could say this is all to stop undocumented Mexican immigrants from crossing the border, but when I drove to Canada a few years ago, I had the exact same Big Brother experience getting back into the U.S. I hope one day we as Americans can move past our post-9/11 perpetual fear and massive xenophobia to live in a more friendly global community.