Tijuana 1950 as described by Fernando Jordán

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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.

William Ruben,
famous tourist guide from San Diego, who brought his customers in a stagecoach.

El turista se va, y de Tijuana solamente recuerda esa calle, de la que un poeta modernista hizo un verso tan desordenado como el tema:

Hello? Hello?
—¡Un taxi, por favor!
Yes! Yes! Calle Revolución.
¿Ceasar’s? ¿Giro’s Hotel? ¿Don Pedro Motel?
No! No! I don’t like a hot place! 
Llévame a Agua Caliente:
Deme un
whisky sin soda y un buen tip
No! No! I said a tip.
I don’t like a hot place!

Darling: vamos a las dog-races.
Un marinero ruboroso pasa y el negro dice
El cabaret se cierra a mediodía,
El saxofón vuelve a las seis.
Me voy al Jai-Alai.
El marinero deja la base de San Diego
y apuesta su compás.
Sin brújula la calle se le pierde;
va haciendo eses.
go to hell.
¡Ahí va! ¡Ahí va!
El marinero ha perdido su compás
y el barco se le pierde en alta mar.
Sale a la calle el
hablando inglés:

Come-in! Come-in!
Here is the show!

La morenita tonta baila rumba
y el marino le tienta la cadera
en busca del compás.
¡Taxi! ¡Taxi!

Please dame un tip
y llévame a un
hot place.

dame un
Quiero jugar hasta el compás del tiempo.
Sirve un
whisky sin soda
y dime qué horas son.
¿Cuándo cambiará el tiempo, marinero? 

Darling: vamos al jai-alai
y dile al negro que ya no grite
¡Un taxi, por favor! 

Yes! Yes! Calle Revolución.
Dame un tip
y llévame a un
hot place.
El marinero sin compás
se pierde,
va haciendo eses,
y eructa 

go to hell.

—Fernando Jordán

El otro México: Biografía de Baja California, pp. 163–4, 166–7.
Tourists return home remembering Tijuana for only one street, in honor of which a modernist poet wrote a poem as disorderly as its subject:

“Jes? Jes?”

“Call us a taxi, please.”
Sí, sí, Cayay Revolution.”
“¿Al hotel César? ¿Giros? ¿El motel Dom Pedro?”

“Allá no. No me gusta el ambiente caluroso. 

Take me to the Agua Caliente racetrack,
give me a whiskey – hold the soda – and a good tip.
Así dije «un tip», no «una propina».
A mí no me gustan los lugares acalorados.
“Mi amor,
let’s go to the dog races.”

A rubicund sailor walks by and the negro shouts “Hi!
The cabaret ends at noon,
the saxophone player comes on at six.
I’m going to the Jai-Alai.”
Another tip!
The sailor, on shore leave from San Diego,
lost his compass in a bet.
Now he’s lost his bearings on the street,
teetering, tottering,
¡A la verga!”.
There it goes … yep, it’s gone …
the sailor has lost his way
and his ship has sailed.
The maître d’ is on the sidewalk,
calling out in English,
“Come in! Come in! Here is the show!”
A dark-skinned girl rumbas over vacuously
and the sailor puts his hand on her hip
hoping to find his way.

Taxi! Taxi! 

Una pista, porfá,
and take me to
un antro caliente.

give me a tip!
I want to bet until closing time.
Bring me a whiskey, no soda,
and tell me what time it is.
Are we on Daylight Savings Time yet, sailor? 
Mi amor, let’s go to the Jai-Alai
and tell that black man to stop shouting “Hi!”.
Call us a taxi, please.

Sí, sí, Cayay Revolution.
Give me a tip
and take me to a hot place.

The clueless sailor
is lost
teetering and tottering
and belching 

¡a la verga!