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A Tale of Two Cities – On the Border

border A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, deals with the major themes of duality, revolution and resurrection, not unlike our border cities. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in London and Paris, as economic and political unrest lead to the American and French Revolutions. The main characters in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities — Doctor Alexandre Manette, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton — are all recalled to life, or resurrected, in different ways as turmoil erupts.

Are we now experiencing a similar “revolution?”

Federal elections in the U.S. have brought forth a candidate that has developed a whirlwind of controversy over a man-made divider. In Mexico we constantly battle the media and our government with the overlay of a drug lord Robin Hood persona. The first people to feel the brunt of change are border residents; we are part of a unique region comprised of two cities that have been part of an unintentional diaspora of their own countries.

Both have one thing in common: the general perception that the region enhances quality of life. I completely agree. When my family moved here over 30 years ago, my parents were moving away from the “about to burst” metropolitan jungle called Mexico City. They wanted a better place for their children to grow up. The border presented an opportunity: a unifier of cultures, not a divider of countries, but a melting pot where their offspring could become bicultural, binational and bilingual without losing their Mexican roots.

It was the best of times… the dollar and peso had a very similar exchange rate, there was no perception of insecurity, you could easily move throughout the region to run daily errands and enjoy the benefits of the coastal life. You would go to Sea World and La Bufadora on the same weekend when your relatives came to visit. You did the 80s park hopper that was Disneyland, Six Flags and Knott’s in the summer with the kids, and camped in San Felipe on pristine beaches with great weather. We lived the dream.

Cut to 25 years later… border wait times are at a record high, the peso is sliding close to 20 pesos per dollar, and there is social and political unrest in the state and the city with a perception of mediocrity from our leadership. In San Diego the economy is revamping to say the least and economic development is focused on infrastructure and rehab programs.

As in Dickens’ novel when turmoil arose and the city needed them, our region’s main characters have “resurrected” to life. Jerry Sanders, former mayor and police chief has taken over the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce to build it into a powerhouse for advocacy and binational relations, lobbying and political clout. Suddenly Jose Galicot who spearheaded Tijuana’s image rebuilding committee of Tijuana alongside Malin Burnham, and Alejandro Bustamante from Plantronics, created the quintessential community movement called Tijuana Innovadora. Interim Mayor Todd Gloria followed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer helped form a back-to-back business friendly, pro-border city government. A second generation has also appeared (the “Young Guns” as I like to call them) taking the leadership role in their communities and in the private and public sector. People like David Alvarez, Ariosto Manrique, Gaston Luken, Paola Avila, Denice Garcia, and Adriana Eguia to name a few. People who understand now is a time to stand up for our region, fight for a better government and work out our differences.

We are not neighbors in this tale of two cities; we are roommates. Once everybody else catches on, it will not matter who is elected president, who is elected mayor or how things change with the dollar peso exchange rate; we are ready for whatever the world throws at us because together, unified by a common purpose, we are the strongest of regions, The Calibaja Megaregion.

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