Gringo : TJpoemas









Avenue Bridge Mexico

                                                                        -  a  narrative  history


The town can be changed,

but the well cannot be changed. 

People come and go and draw from the well. 

If the bucket breaks,

            or the rope does not reach - 

there is misfortune.                            [-  I Ching -]



Go ahead         look back

you       can  still  see them

            in                      old                   photographs

before any bridge  across  the river

they came over  in crowded wagons

            those    first       tourists            


burdened  with  prejudice

and exotic



high round wheels




            the shallow water

searching for  the          mythical

Tia Juana          Aunt Jane

and       her   delicious

adobe               restaurant                     bar .


This arroyo       at this   end       of  the earth

was not  always  so easy   to     cross  -

the        California          desert   river    

ran wild

every forty years

            until 1920 dams

blocked  its

            mountain flow


not before those

floods devoured the first

            old west town

in this sandy river bottom

28 February 1891 .


The founders rebuilt their little city

on padre Serra’s flat

open space

just above the river

safely out of reach

from any deluge .


A handful of cantinas, gambling,

customs office


welcomed         the          20th      c e n t u r y



  Big Curio Store.                     Bullfights on the Border!



                   Visit Tijuana in Olde Mexico !



                                    5¢ Beer !



sang     the        new      old  town

horses              houses              corrals              burros

and the dirt       road     bent     

slightly downhill

toward the        almost always dry         water

crossing            with excursion wagons

again  coming over

            Yee - Ha !


The first bridge

            of wood

planks              stretched          across

trestle stumps

connected to the same dirt road


instead of dust and water

this ride            shook   and rumbled

rocked and       rolled

            under heavy wagons

then automobiles .


They called it la marimba

“resonators beneath each bar”

[-Webster-] .


Visitors thrilled just to reach

                        the far shore

and rattle up the little hill


                                    town .


The age of Prohibition  changed  everything .

Gold and silver  flowed  downhill  like water .

Barkeepers swept  silver dollars  from the floor .

Streets were paved, electric lights lit .



            at the  old hot springs 

            outside of town

a consortium  of  investors

            created  the  new  &  luxurious

Agua Caliente Touristic Complex

with hotel, golf course, race track,

            baths, private airstrip, railroad station

                        restaurants, nightclub-bar and

– of course – gambling salon .


The main hotel was all in Mission-Moorish style, while

private bungalows accommodated

more reclusive clients .


The Agua Caliente casino welcomed

the Hollywood crowd .

Charlie Chaplin  and  Laurel & Hardy 

played here .

Rita Moreno was discovered

and became Rita Hayworth .


A dancing girl – la Faraona – was murdered –

they say she still haunts the hot spring ground .


Then the President of Mexico

outlawed gambling

            in 1938 and the

casino was shut down –

and Tijuana finally entered

the Great Depression .


The suffering  town  has never  forgiven

Mexico City  for  that  act of central power

and  in fact  then    rioted   after a young girl

was brutally raped and murdered .

A federal  soldier  accused of the crime

            was escorted to the old cemetery

                        ordered to run

                                    a n d                 s h o t

by  his  comrades in arms .


His tomb has since

            become a shrine

strange twist of fate

            where victims of authority

offer their prayers of thanks to Juan Soldado

            for their deliverance across the border line


where   no one remembers

in their prayers  that

even his wife

            said he was guilty .

Peter and Paul were never so lucky .


Yet after that Golden Age

of  gambling heaven and

legal drinking and

                        murdered          hell

a new  California style  cement

highway bridge

now  connected  the border

to the same  gentle slope as

the  vanished  la marimba   

to the same

street  of  the  bridge

Avenida Puente México

where               pedestrians

still walk

            into town          today

up  the  hill

from the river

                        but       after 1974

only broken stubs         remain from the

second bridge               its  feet   poking up

in the concrete flood channel

on your right as you

approach afoot .


Ramón Huerta  was      crossing  the     new      old bridge

there  in  1963              when

the beer carnival           ferris wheel

fell over            on your left .


He watched it rattle




until  finally

it  settled


like a big ugly


            in  clouds of dust


screams .


Under that  vanished     cement bridge

            there once was             a

            shanty town

in sandy            ground



– Cartolandia .


This      remembered

political legend


swept away by deluge   and


            reconstruction .


Oil-Boom river renewal

planned   a  flood-control channel

 and then

one dark (and stormy) night              opened

like       caudillo  cliché the

Rodriguez Dam             flood-gates

to transform   the   cardboard slum

into         a        “new Tijuana”

of malls and boulevards

                                                      and then

strung a pedestrian crossing

next to the old highway bridge

torn down

to its rebar


and then

raised a new monster

puente México

quarter-mile upstream

ten lanes feeding into spaghetti

swirling ramps

morning and weekend traffic

backing up from U.S. gate

to the mall  a

mile away .      


Better you should walk

the old route     to

see it all            on foot


puente México with

Sunday  families            or

morning drunks             or 

evening party dancers  

rising up that slow grade

            past the taco stands

and  old  bus station

with    mosaic map  illustrating  in

ornamental  tile  the long long route 

from  Tijuana  to

                                                Mexico City



the  wax  museum

and  on     up  the  gentle  slope


the        new   silver   metal

millennial  arch

standing here

at the end  of time

&   this   poem .











You really should come and enjoy this walk.  Who cares if the river stinks like sewage or the U.S. blimp has sharpshooting snipers ready to dart you unconscious or bang bang you doornail deaddeaddead on the least suspicion of terror on your part by your part for your part....






Gringo : TJpoemas