Alfredo is a confused teenager from Chula Vista who forms a vigilante group to assault Mexican immigrants; Miranda is a Tijuana socialite and single mother involved with a powerful drug cartel; Gabe is an ex-con, his father a Border Patrol agent; Edgar is a Chicano painter. Theirs is the ultimate bicultural story, and Flores tells it in all its racial and political complexity.
Paul gives an overview of the book:
My grandfather died in 1987, around the time when things were really bad in Mexico. I remember during the early eighties there were crises everywhere. Economic crashes in Mexico City. Civil wars in Centro America. Scared refugees immigrating north. The border was flooded with refugees, and, like any sudden change, it was violent for a while. A lot of rich Tijuaneros were taking their money out of Mexico and beginning to buy property in safer, more exclusive areas in San Diego, Los Angeles, and Arizona. Everyone was afraid of being robbed or kidnapped. Or of losing their cash to the government, which had already frozen and seized many of our bank accounts.
Mexico City has always taken advantage of Tijuana like that, mistreating us like a red-headed stepchild. Which is why we all hate Chilangos. Ellos son los mas culeros. I would like to blame corruption. But everyone's corrupt. I want to say it's the pinche gringo tourism that forces Tijuana to cater to their wants and dollars. And that would probably be a good enough reason for most politically correct peoplebut Mexicans are not politically correct. It's no secret that there are more Yankee dollars in Tijuana than pesos.
Just look at all the billboards in English, the Blockbuster Videos, the Carl's Jrs. in every shopping center. Tijuaneros are business people. We were able to avoid the crashes and devaluations that the rest of Mexico suffered because we have a tourist economy. The only recessions we experience come when too many Mexicans pull their dollars out of our national banks at the same time.
For a couple of weeks nobody in Tijuana has any dollars—-at least, those without U.S. bank accounts and all of a sudden we have to use pesos. I think the government believes that forcing us to use pesos will actually cause us to be more Mexican. But it's all a conspiracy, because then some narco deposits millions of dollars into the state cash reserve and everybody's happy again. There's nothing like a fresh stack of Alexander Hamiltons to promote Mexican patriotism. The truth is, a Mexican can't get any more sold out than being born and raised in Tijuana. The nationalist fever, famous in the rest of Mexico, doesn't make it to la frontera del norte. We're more like the Mexican part of San Diego. Everybody else already thinks we're gringos. Even the gringos think we're gringos. They don't even bother to learn Spanish, because Tijuaneros speak English, buy everything in gringo malls, eat too many Big Macs, and watch Jeopardy. Half of my family and friends don't even speak Spanish at home. But, as you'll see, my friends and family are a little different.
You could call them Yummies: Young urban Mexicans raised with money. Sons and daughters of mayors, politicos, and rich businessmen, who drive fancy cars and wear nice clothes, who go to the exclusive clubs and expensive restaurants, who drink French champagne and scotch, who travel to Europe once a year to shop.
Most of my cousins and friends from Tijuana grew up to become fresas and juniors. The kind who think they're Mexican royalty, but are really just one or two generations removed from the working classgetting drunk all the time, wrecking automobile after automobile, paying off one cop or another, hanging out with drug dealers and narcos. Like the only way they can enjoy themselves is by destroying everything their parents worked for, everything that gives them privilege. They're the best gamblers and the worst losers.
Paul S. Flores is a published poet, performance artist and playwright. His work explores the intersection of urban culture, Hip-Hop and transnational identity. He was raised in Chula Vista, CA and spent much of his youth between Tijuana and San Diego developing a border...