How we use Cookies

Grumpy Young Man: Mexican border town misery

I LEARNT a three-word phrase which caustically and aptly describes those irritating but ultimately inconsequential problems.

I LEARNT a three-word phrase which caustically and aptly describes those irritating but ultimately inconsequential problems.

First World Problems – also known as ‘white whine’ – are “the frustrations and complaints only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries”.

The phrase is best applied in a sarcastic and mocking tone, akin to the way you’d say: “Oh, diddums”.

When my other half, Steph, and I were close to the end of our north-to-south tour of the US Pacific Coast we decided to make a brief excursion into Mexico.

The Mexican border city of Tijuana is 20 minutes drive from San Diego and we were curious to see somewhere outside the cosy confines of the developed world.

Mexico became a newly industrialised country last year but it’s still considered a developing, or to use an archaic term, a Third World country.

We knew the standard of living was higher north of the border but the jolting contrast we saw between the two cities sucker-punched our collective naivety square in the jaw.

Right up to the border San Diego is clean and tidy with neatly manicured lawns and well maintained public spaces. It’s also fairly safe to wander around.

But from the border gates, Tijuana is dirty, tacky, run down, and from what I’m told, dangerous in all but the tourist areas. Imagine a hot, dusty version of the most miserable British seaside town and you’ve an accurate picture of ‘TJ’.

In the USA you have to be 21 to drink, where as in Mexico you can start legally boozing three years earlier. That’s why downtown Tijuana essentially caters for young Californians looking to get drunk on cheap mezcal and Corona.

But on the way into this alcoholic dystopia – also popular among impotent Americans on the hunt for cut-price Viagra – we spotted something far more shocking.

As we crossed the dried out Tijuana River Canal we spotted people living alongside the rubbish and untreated sewage.

It turns out that many of the people living there had been deported from the USA.

Some had been living in the States for decades, albeit illegally, and had families there. Some had no family left in Mexico and were waiting indefinitely to sneak back over the border less than 200m away.

The US Border Patrol plays a perpetual game of cat and mouse with these homeless people.

While industrialisation has brought wealth to an unprecedented number of Mexicans, it was clear from our short visit that it wasn’t reaching Tijuana.

Visit the Foreign Office travel advice website and you’ll notice it tells you to avoid most of northern Mexico. That’s because the area is controlled by drug and people trafficking cartels and it’s extremely dangerous.

Corruption is rife and legal employment is in such short supply that Mexicans are prepared to pay a year’s wages to be smuggled into the US to find work – and many die trying.

As we sat munching away on our burgers and fries in downtown San Diego a few hours later, we couldn’t help but feel depressed and guilty, but above all, privileged.

So remember that three-word phrase next time the council forgets to empty your bin or takes a while to fix a pothole in your street.

 

Journalists

Doug Thomson
Huddersfield Town correspondent
Chris Roberts
Huddersfield Giants correspondent
Louise Cooper
Crime correspondent
Nick Lavigueur
Health Correspondent
Joanne Douglas
Local Government Correspondent
Linda Whitwam
Education Correspondent
Henryk Zientek
Business Correspondent
Val Javin
Features Editor
Martin Shaw
Mirfield Correspondent