Crossing the Southern Border – San Ysidro, Mexico

Spring break raves and mission trips.  Maybe a port visit while on a cruise.  That’s why people go to Mexico, right?

In 2004 I was in France for a semester and spent a weekend with a friend’s family in Paris.  His parents were profuse in their praise of the cultural heritage and sites of Mexico, from whence they had just returned on a long-anticipated vacation.  Historic ruins.  Fascinating architecture.  Storied history.  Legendary food.  Breathtaking topography and geologic features.  And the beaches. . .  But you’re American, so you already know.  Obviously, you’ve been to neighboring Mexico.

No, I had not.  Numerous countries in Africa and Europe?  Yes.  Neighbor Mexico?  No.

At least, not yet.

Sixteen miles from one of the busiest international border crossings in the world, I gaze at the hills of Tijuana every day from my kitchen window.  When I drive around town on my daily business, the digital signs on the highway remind me how close I am.  Border – 13 minutes.  In only 13 minutes I could be there, feeling instantly at home, because home is everywhere, anywhere.  (That’s what happens when you’re a third culture kid).

So we go.

Six years ago, the first time we took our car into Mexico, I was shocked.  We just drove right in.  No passport check. No “show me your documents.”  Nothing.  Just a long line of thousands of cars funneling through multiple lanes as cameras flashed pictures of license plates.  Then bam, we were in.  I felt so privileged.  I have driven across many an international border on several continents, but never, not once, did I not have to show documents (the E.U. being the obvious exception).  When entering Mexico by car, it’s on your honor to ensure you have a passport and have purchased Mexican insurance (available online).

So we go.

On the return, the line to enter the U.S. can be long.  Several years ago after returning from a family trip to the Sea of Cortez, we waited in line for over three hours – with an infant and a potty-training 2-year-old.  We survived as I relived memories of border crossings in Africa as a child, crossings that could take hours and hours just waiting for nothing (or a little something to an official, whose desires were ultimately unrequited). To expedite future entries, we purposed to acquire SENTRI passes – an immigration fast pass.

So we go.

After all the border shenanigans, one may ask, is it worth it?  What do you actually do in Mexico?

Oh, that’s easy.  Drink fresh-roasted coffee, eat local food and play at the playground.  Same as everywhere else.

5 responses to “Crossing the Southern Border – San Ysidro, Mexico”

  1. Thank you, Heidi! I so enjoy your writing!

    You photos are enlightening! We don’t realize how beautiful Mexico is!

    Love, Cousin Dorothy (once removed)

    Dorothy Tish Cell: 206-409-2672


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