Mexicali: the city by the fence


Back in Mexicali after a week away at the nurse practitioner conference in Florida – and I am surprised by how much I missed the city.

a view of the city

To be sure, it lacks the glamour and sophistication of Bogotá, Medellin or Buenos Aires.  It doesn’t have the 500 years of history or Caribbean flavor that makes Cartagena such a vibrant city.  Yet – despite this, Mexicali remains the city by the fence – and the city that makes me want to stay on the Mexican side of the border.

Maybe it’s the casual friendliness of the city that grabs me, and embraces me.  The lack of pretension, the very earthiness of the barren,hard packed dirt and dusty surroundings draw me in – with the hidden pockets of Mexicali that beg to be explored.  Every brightly lit taco stand, the mom and pop establishments, and the upscale neighborhoods tucked away in tree-lined streets..

So, today after clinic, and rounds – we left the hospital and explored Mexicali – looking for photos to represent the Mexicali that I am coming to know, and which are often unseen by weekend tourists.

the main artery, which criss-cross the city

Having the good doc as a tour guide was an unexpected bonus – he knows the city so well, and was able to give background and insight into all of our destinations. Despite being from Sonora, he attended school here – making Mexicali very much his home.

as the capital of Baja California, there are numerous excellent educational facilities

I find taking city photos one of the more difficult aspects of writing.. Monuments aren’t all that exciting, and often the most interesting parts of cities aren’t the most photogenic ones..

This is one of Mexicali’s better known landmarks – the stadium used for bullfights.  The Mexicali sign is actually made of mirrored tile which glistens in the sun..

Mexicali landmark: Bullfighting stadium

We stopped by the Military base, because I have been fascinated by the military presence during the preparations for the elections – soldiers guard the electoral offices to prevent any sort of voting shenanigans.  (I’ll try to get a picture of the soldiers soon)

The good doctor laughs when I ask about military efforts and involvement abroad.  (Just because I’m not aware of the Mexican military overseas doesn’t mean they aren’t UN peacekeepers.. )  So I ask my questions about it and it is several minutes before he can stop laughing enough to even answer the question.  Funny, maybe.  But then – when you think of it kind of nice.  Mexico doesn’t attempt to police the world, and that’s okay..

“No, there’s no navy,” he laughs.. (Actually, there is a navy – which is also involved in trying to fight drug trafficking and gang activity).  But it’s nice that it’s apparently low-key enough that it doesn’t dominate the public’s attention.

Military base in Mexicali

Their primary function is more like our national guard – fighting against unrest (and now – narco-trafficking) at home.  Safeguarding elections and the general populace.  Keeping the border safe (yes – safe from all the violence endemic to satisfying the American thirst for drugs, and the underground importation of American weaponry).  I feel a little nervous taking pictures of the base, but no one seems to notice or approach me.  (My first attempts were semi-surreptitiously, but then, with encouragement, I got a little bolder.)

Today is the last day that the political candidates are allowed to campaign before the election, so we passed supporters for PRI (Enrique Pena) and PAN (Vasquez Mota).  I didn’t see anyone out there for AMLO or Quadri, but maybe they just weren’t as well represented.  After this – the candidates have to lay low for a few days so Mexican citizens can ‘reflect’ prior to the elections on Sunday.  That’s kind of a cool concept too – no endless barrage of media like the mega-campaigns at home.

Of course, I wish we could have a real workable multi-party system, so it’s not always a ‘lesser of two evils’ situation at home.  Maybe if we weren’t limited by having just two choices and two main parties – we might have more ‘shades of grey’ instead of all this extremism at both ends of the spectrum.. But it’s interesting to watch here, all the same, and I am glad that I have been here to experience it.

I hope I don’t alienate readers at home with my talk of politics – after all, I am not really a political animal, so ignore my musings, if you like..

In other news – it’s a bit frustrating when you have spent several months here – only that have the New York Times swoop down.. and all the doors that were closed to you (That’s you, Omar Dipp) suddenly burst open since they are a major news agency.  Of course, they had the mandatory patient testimonial,  – it was just the usual “medical tourism lite” style story that so often dominate the news.   Didn’t you just love the “nurses warm your hand…”  more like advertising than real journalism, but whatever..  (In fairness – I write a lot of “news lite” articles myself for outlets like Examiner.com which actually prefer this style, but those are usually 400 word pieces – and I’m not at the NYT, so of course, I am envious..

But it’s good for Mexicali – and all the hard-working doctors I’ve met here..  They certainly deserve the exposure!

Hopefully readers who want the real scoop on operating room conditions, doctors , etc.  will still know where to come for in-depth information..

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