I was born in Tijuana.
That’s something I posted in a comment last night. I flinched when I went to publish it. I don’t normally tell people because it’s really none of their business.
it can be embarrassing to admit.
I'm not embarrassed of the city I know. I'm embarrassed about the city others think they know. Of the city people immediately picture when I tell them that it's where I'm from. Tijuana is a beautiful city with a rich history, but nobody knows or cares to know. It's easier to believe that it's just the place that has been blemished by an unfortunate era and lots of bad press.
I love her the way you love a grandmother, but I'm embarrassed of her escapades, like those of a drunk uncle that you don't want to admit you’re related to.
When I was a kid, my answer to “Where were you born” was always me with “Did you live in a cardboard house?” People expect you to be a certain person. They expected to hear that we lived in poverty. That my parents didn’t have a good upbringing. That we all snuck across the border for a "better" life. They would never expect that my father was an attorney. Certainly not a district attorney. They wouldn’t expect that my mom went to the best private schools and had maids growing up.
They couldn't understand why I wanted to go back to visit every weekend.
As an adult, I thought I might be able to share, but the cardboard box questions turned into responses filled with stories about getting wasted and throwing up all night from bad tequila. I had those stories, too, so I was happy that we at least had some connection that wasn’t just cardboard boxes and poverty. Then the War on Drugs started, sparking the turf wars... and well, we all know the rest.
I got tired of defending the city and describing how great my life was down there, so I just started lying. I don’t know when it happened or why I chose it, but at some point, I started telling people I was born in Marin. I even wrote that down on my boarding documents for a cruise once. I didn’t have my passport and this was back in the day when you could just pinky swear and be able to get on board. I did eventually get to live there, but only for a few short years.
I’m ashamed, but not for the reasons you might think. I’m ashamed that I was ever embarrassed to say that I was born in Tijuana. I want to play the memories in my mind for you to show you what a great place it is. The noise, the sites, the smells, the food, the people… it’s such a beautiful city! But people only know the poverty, the drug wars, the shacks on the hill. I’m sad that about that. I’m sad that I didn’t keep defending her.
The city I love is a beautiful place that you may never get to visit because you believe that you'll be shot dead if you come down here. At least some good came from the continued sensationalization in the media: the riffraff have left and our city has been returned to her children. And her children are bringing her back to health.
So now you know.
I was born in Tijuana.
And I couldn’t be prouder.