19 December 2011

Turista Libre in the Washington Post

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Costarring in Sunday's Washington Post travel section, an ode to reconsidering Mexico as a tourist destination in light of all that's gone down in the ongoing game of cops and narcos in recent years, was none other than Turista Libre. A recount of our retro-themed trek to the roller rink in January, specifically.

"I’m feeling a little ridiculous standing here in my ’70s-era hotpants and ironic sweatband, shivering in front of a roller-skating rink on the east side of Tijuana. What business does a gringa like me have here, miles away from downtown’s erstwhile tourist street, Avenida Revolucion, dressed like a reject from a Jane Fonda workout video?

"Luckily, I’m not alone. About three dozen other preposterously dressed Americans, all in their 20s and 30s, come spilling out the door of the bus behind me — the women in leotards and legwarmers, the men in track shorts with striped athletic socks stretched over tattooed calves.

"The last one off the bus is a handsome blond in red short-shorts and a silver lamé jacket. He is our tour guide, Derrik Chinn, a blue-eyed 30-year-old former journalist from Ohio who now makes his living showing groups of curious gringos like us how to experience Tijuana as the Tijuanenses do, with trips to the local water park, a lucha libre (Mexican wrestling) match or, in our case, to the Patines de Plata roller rink, where every Friday is retro night.

"Chinn, who calls his business Turista Libre, motions for the entrance and yells, '¡Turistas, vamos!' We follow him inside, where Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It” blasts over the stereo system and a disco ball rains its polka-dot shimmer onto the few dozen teenagers circling the rink, some bashfully holding hands in nervous anticipation of the couples’ skate. I give the place a quick scan. No sign of narco henchmen, so I beat a quick path to the skate-rental counter, lace up my size ocho quads and join my bespandexed compatriots out in the rink."

Read it all here.

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