A convoy of the Mexican Armed Forces patrol along Avenida Revolución, in downtown Tijuana, as a trio of banda musicians belt out a tune for passersby. ‘La Revo,’ as Avenida Revolución is known by Tijuanenses, used to be the heart of Tijuana’s tourist district, with thousands of college students flocking to the street to enjoy cheap booze and an 18-and-up drinking age. As Tijuana became of no-go zone for Americans with México’s surging narco violence, the street was abandoned by tourists and boarded up storefronts were all that remained.
In the gringos’ absence, the street in the heart of Tijuana is now being reclaimed by Tijuanenses, and is slowly being transformed by the ‘reawakening’ turned revival downtown. While out of touch Baja California tourism officials still can’t envision the street’s future as anything but a destination for tchotchke-searching American daytrippers and tequila swilling underage Aztecs from SDSU, a new generation of hip entrepreneurs are re-imagining Avenida Revolución. Several clubs and restaurants catering to Tijuana’s hip set have recently opened up in the spaces formerly dedicated to American tourists, and the famed Caesar’s restaurant—birthplace of the Caesar salad—was bought and restored by the Plascencia clan of restauranteurs. Recently, while sipping local wines from the Valle de Guadalupe on the patio Caesar’s, a friend remarked, ‘If you told me a few years ago that I would be drinking wine on a patio restaurant on Avenida Revolución, I wouldn’t have believe you.’ While the reclamation of Avenida Revolución for Tijuanenses is far from complete, as many empty storefronts remain and little support has been offered from the clueless officials in either of the recent municipal administrations, it is well underway. With the Americans gone, in larger and larger numbers, Tijuanenses have started to frequent their own no-go zone—Avenida Revolución.