Tijuana 1950 as described by Fernando Jordán

~ ~

Fernando Jordán Juárez (1920–1956) was trained as an anthropologist and worked as a journalist. In 1949, the magazine Impacto asked him to write a series of articles on the entire Baja California peninsula. That work was later collected into two books, still in print today and well worth reading.

Jordán was captivated by the anthropology, sociology, and history that he found throughout the peninsula but, when he got to Tijuana, the culture of tourism then present caught him off-guard. His horrified reaction, copied and caricatured by generations of chilangos since, is reflected in El otro México: Biografía de Baja California, in which the chapter on our fair city is entitled “This is going to annoy some Tijuanans”.

 “While noisy, Avenida Revolución has always seemed to me to be childish. It is unpleasant but not sordid” he wrote. “The Americans are simple-minded and very clean even when drunken. At daybreak they end their binges by cheering and by taking photos of themselves on little mobile stages of ‘Mexican’ scenes drawn by white burros painted with black stripes – ‘Mexican burros’ (!) – found at every street corner. The sailors climb onto these stages and arrange themselves among the cardboard cactuses, exchanging their sailor caps for charro sombreros, and smile for the photographer. The burros are impassive, enduring all manner of abuse: they are the philosophers of the carnival.”

In that same annoying chapter, Jordán has left us an early poetical approximation of our special form of bilingualism, which he addressed to his Spanish-speaking readership. To show that modern-day Tijuana holds him no rencor, we would honor his memory with a side-by-side semitranslation to accommodate our English-speaking readership.