On Tuesday we went to the Community Museum and Cultural Center of Tecate. There we met with Andres Contreras who was the Coordinador General del Corredor Histórico CAREM AC. CAREM is is a Mexican non-profit association based in Tecate, Baja California whose mission is to protect, preserve, and present to the public the historical and cultural heritage of Baja California, Mexico. He happily agreed to meet with us and gave us a private tour of several of the Centers’ buildings, which were not open that day.
The museum features regional artifacts, photographs, murals, sculptures, and interactive bilingual signage that creatively illustrate three main phases of Tecate’s culture and history: the prehistoric period, the historical period and the contemporary period. The Cavern of the Ancestors explains thousands of years of prehistoric life in the region.
We interviewed Andres about the history of Tecate. He discussed the importance of the railroad in the growth of the city and the period of ranchers that helped establish trade routes and modern agriculture.
Andres told us of the current CAREM project, working with the U.S. based California Missions Foundation (CMF) to bring recognition and awareness to El Camino Real de las Californias which is a historic corridor stretching from Los Cabos in Baja California Sur to Sonoma in northern California by working toward earning an UNESCO World Heritage Nomination for El Camino Real de las Californias.
They recently outlined plans for this multi-year initiative that will include partnering with government agencies in both the U.S. and Mexico, including Mexico’s lnstituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia or INAH, US/ICOMOS, California State Parks, the National Parks Service as well as with the San Diego Maritime Museum, and the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation.
El Camino Real de las Californias was officially given its name during the Spanish period, originally using trails first transversed by Native Americans and continues as a much-travelled route today as it has linked Missions, Presidios, Asistencias, Ranchos, and Pueblos. Today it continues to link important cultural, historic, natural landscapes, ecology, and urban centers in both countries.
Nicole decided that tacos were in order (nobody complained). There was talk of creating a “taco bracket” to help determine which tacos were the best in Mexico. This establishment was fairly typical in style, with an open floor plan kitchen that offers you a first hand view of how they are made. This restaurant was divided into two sections. with the “pork” section having a vertical rotisserie, called “Adobada”, and the “beef” section where the meat is cooked on a gas grill with a vent, called “Asada”. In the middle, two large flat griddles to cook the flour and corn tortillas. The menu, similar to other taquerias in the area, has a large meat selection, this restaurant also has a one or two vegetarian options (a rarity for most taco stands).
We also nearly picked up another crewmate for the trip, as Nicole wanted to adopt a local dog patiently waiting for table scraps. We promptly finished our meal, Nicole’s new dog (now named Steve) following along as we headed back to the Government and Municipal Offices.
Along the way, we decided to stop and grab an “Elote”. In Chicago and other parts of the US, elotes are sold most of the time as a street food. It is corn on the cob, lathered with mayonnaise, butter, cotija cheese, and usually sprinkled with dried chile or pepper flakes. Of course, you can add and take away condiments as desired. Here a combination ice cream and elote shop offered both “on the cob” or in a cup (we went with a cup as it was a new experience). Our elote Barista carefully layered corn, mayo, butter, cheese and hot chiles. We paid our bill, and grabbed our cup and head to the Plaza.
The public office in Tecate was comprised of a three story level complex that housed the different government offices. The different ballots were on display, showing the different candidates for office. The ballot displayed a group picture, as in at least this part of Mexico, the entire election team is comprised of the multiple secretaries and their assistants.
As we found out from the secretary in the Cultural Museum, Tecate has had their most rainfall in over ten years. Last year, there was only two rain days and this year they have had over ten days of torrential rain. She said that is was badly needed and the water reservoirs were beginning to fill back up again. When we arrived in Tecate, multiple roads were closed due to the canalized creeks overflowing onto the roads. Today, as we headed back to the bus, the rains decided to pick back up. Roads were getting to the point of being closed again, but we still got to watch vehicles slowly wading their way over the flooded roads. We hurried our rain-soaked selves back to the bus and got on the road to Tijuana.
The drive from Tecate to Tijuana was easy until the traffic picked up inside the city. The roads are paved, but with some areas littered with potholes, some demolished down to bare dirt. The traffic from the industrial side of Tijuana was lots of employees either using their own cars or busses filled with workers on their way home A lot of the factories here bear household American names. Trailer trucks in Mexico so far tend to be two tractor-trailers hooked together with a cab in front. Some even triple tow three cargo containers. This makes them considerably longer than most trucks in the US. Car drivers are also very aggressive, but not too much different than some of the major cities in the US. If there is a gap, expect someone to shoot for it if you don’t. With a bus and jeep in tow, we drive fairly steady and passively.
We drove up the rolling and winding hills of Tijuana, and were able to find parking in a nice residential part of town where we are visiting Oscar’s friends Danny and Veronique. They were nice enough to offer beds and a shower to these weary travelers!