Sandwiching Mexico's independence day on September 16 is the annual month-long run of the Tijuana Fair, parked in between Parque Morelos and El Trompo interactive science and technology museum among the border city's ever-growing eastern skyline. The most recent addition of significance to sprout up out of the dust just off the Via Rapida freeway is the eight-story Tijuana World Trade Center, which opened in July.
Más que nada, the Tijuana Fair is a complete sensory overload of flashing neon, strobe lights, faux freaks of nature, bleeps, bloops, blings, dings, gongs and bongs, a buffet of postmodern folklore that's threaded together by a rising and falling yet ever-present adrenaline rush that fuels you through the body farm. Traits common to most fairs around the world, for sure. But amplified in typical Tijuana style, it's louder, brighter, bigger, faster, a never-ending Erick Rincon track and so, sobre todo, beautifully, precariously, arousingly, creepily bizarre.
3Ball MTY FT. EL Bebeto y America Sierra - Intentalo by Erick Rincon
Chapter one: the games. Lining the outer layers of the thoroughfare is the typical trickery in which every setup is looks as though it could be the entrance to a Hayao Miyazaki film. For the win are plush prizes of all incarnations, including Marlboro cigarettes, cellphones, customized key chains, 500-peso bills and shoes. Thrown into the mix are firing ranges outfitted with dancing Barbie dolls, stands selling makeup and jewelry and museums rigged out of trailers where 10 pesos scores you a peek at spider crabs, guitar fish, the world's smallest baby, Atila the Eagle Girl and other man-made DNA mishaps like the star-nused mule, whatever the hell that is. A rooster with what looked like a few extra limbs sewn or glued onto its breast sort of waved at me from afar as I passed all this by, thinking best to save my pesos for the main attraction. The rides.
Filling the core of the fairgrounds are no fewer than 20 or 30 attractions that, judging by the general consensus of the group, sent us plummeting back to all the best parts of adolescence. Two drop towers, a biggie and accompanying mini-me. A full-size rollercoaster known as the Wild Mouse. A terror train rigged out of tractor trailers known as the Dark Ride. The Kamikaze, a contraption that looks like a pair of trolley cars bolted onto a giant pair of scissors that loops. The Extreme Loop, a giant spinning pendulum. Various tilt-a-whirls that erase the line between severe bruising and fear of internal bleeding at various speeds. And, of course, the usual bumper cars, swings, merry-go-round and Ferris wheel.
Tickets for each ride run between 20 and 30 pesos and must be purchased separately at the booth outside each setup, which translates to waiting in two lines. One for the taquilla, another for the actual ride. But the double queuing only winds up building suspense. And it presents you, dear tourist, with the priceless opportunity to meet whomever's sitting in the booth. Characters for whom John Waters would squeal. Especially when he notices she's got a stroller parked in the corner.
No sense in denying it, this whiplash back to before our collective loss of innocence wouldn't have played out as smoothly as it did without 50-peso Tecate and Tecate Light caguamas (the only beer options, by the way #gograndeorgohome), rimmed with chamoy and chile powder, and cocktails in footlong plastic palm trees. Eyes consequentially became squintier and squintier and faces redder and redder with each passing hour. Our husband-wife bus driver team did indeed pass off the keys to their bus-driving son before following suit and joining the gringos in kicking up dust to the live norteño corridos of El Coyote on the main stage, all the while careful not to deal a heel to the surrounding Virgen de Guadalupe and Hello Kitty ceramic statues won by our fellow fairgoers.
Then we shared a couple bags of cotton candy the size of body pillows, 30 pesos a pop, whose plenitude made for impromptu HFCS mustaches.
And made our way back to the border on the muy red fun bus by midnight, everyone in one piece.
Lushes in search of lost childhood south of the border, call us if you will. But we're foodies, too.
Before the fair we padded our stomachs with a hefty layer of mariscos at kitschy-cool La Corriente Cevicheria Nais downtown at Sixth and Madero. The place looks like an homage to Acapulco according to some drag queen who just won the lottery (and I mean that as a definite pageant-winning attribute), with an airbrushesque sunset-palm mural, draping seashell lanterns, mermaid logo, a palapa ceiling and Señor Coconut's cumbia-merengue-salsa ode to Kraftwerk in the air. The menu actually rivals the decor: tacos filled with marlin stuffed into bacon-wrapped shrimp and California chiles, tortillas soaked in soy sauce, red snapper tostadas. And topping the menu are the range of 10 or so mezcal cocktails, namely the Slimer-green hierba buena "De La Verde."
More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos. More photos.