I just finished reading El Tercer País: San Diego & Tijuana. Two Countries. Two
Cities. One Community. The Kindle version is available, and the hardback will be
on sale next month.
The book testifies to the efforts that extraordinarily generous, determined
people have made over the last 200 years of the history of the relationship.
What stories of courage and chutzpah!
In the words of the Mexico’s ambassador to the U.S., Martha Bárcena Coqui
and Dr. Andrew Selee of the Migration Policy Institute, the human stories are
“fundamental because they compel us to look more closely at new and
different angles of a border that defies simplistic categorizations or an
outdated narrative describing just customs and immigrations checkpoints.”
The book also made me reminisce about parallel stories in other pairs of border
towns and cities like Nogales, my birthplace.
My grandfather, Mario De La Fuente Flores, was quite the entrepreneur and
owned the local bullring for decades starting in the early 60s. He was a
pioneering force with U.S. “snow birds” and devoted a lot of time in Tucson
and Phoenix promoting bullfights. He was able to bring the best matadors to
Nogales. In 1969 he managed to book “El Cordobés,
”, then the world’s bestknown bullfighter.
A gifted pitcher in his college days in Austin, Texas and an avid, life-long
baseball fan, he spent time with major league teams’ training camps in the
Valley of the Sun, bringing greats like Willie Mays south of the border to play a
game or two and provide baseball gear to less fortunate boys and girls. He
wrote an autobiographical book in the 70s called “I Like You, Gringo…but”
where he wrote about always trying to “work like a Gringo but play like a
Tijuana Innovadora was a thrilling event, with many remarkable highlights. I
want to share just a few with you.
Mexican Minister of Foreign Relations Marcelo Ebrard wants to take
advantage of our “magnificent relationship” to bring more “innovation,
science, and technology” to the border. Dr. Fernando León García of CETYS
Universidad posits creating “centers of excellence at the binational level” in
technology and other disciplines. Malin Burnham advanced a railroad crossing
at Tecate, fixing sewage spills, a second runway at the Tijuana airport, and
creating a large building straddling the border to convene our peoples.
Michael Steep of Stanford’s Disruptive Technology and Digital Cities Program
spoke about how his university connects with corporations to create smart
cities. How can the model work in San Diego and Tijuana? Chris Wilson of the
Wilson Institute’s Mexico Center posed the hard question about having a high
quality of life at a reasonable cost at the border.
José Angel Gurría, secretary-general of the Paris-based Organization for
Economic Co-operation and Development (commonly known as the OECD)
told us how his organization struggled to get good data from our region as he
was preparing to address the Innovadora conference. The OECD “is ready to
work with CaliBaja to help with its data and narrative.”
He was adamant about our governments’ using their fiscal and monetary
capacity to control and eliminate the virus, adding that governments have to
support the most vulnerable, no matter what, and that they must accelerate
structural reforms to improve health, drive digital transformation, and fight
corruption -- a “build back better” approach.
In “The Tale of 2 Cities” panel Alan Bersin reflected on the personal bonds
between fronterizos and the institutionalization that politicians and civil society
have created over several decades that makes him believe that “you cannot
walk away from the people’s sentiments” about their border. “Flows are more
important than the border itself.”
Ben Rohrbaugh stated at the “Border Efficiencies” panel that the CBX Cross
Border Xpress international air terminal teaches us about doing less but much,
much better. Couldn’t we have ports cater to one type of traveler, e.g., only
trucks in the CTPAT program, or segment them for only 1-2 types of lanes?
Evan Smith of Altana AI told us that the challenge of artificial intelligence use
at the border centers on privacy, data security and sovereignty. How do you
share intelligence without commingling the underlying data? You do big data
targeting with the reality of data fragmentation as isolated “client spokes.”
Jacqueline Reynoso 0f the National City Chamber of Commerce is getting
ready for the Binational Sustainability Conference the first week of December,
featuring panels on mobility planning, data sharing, air quality control, and
other important topics. The Smart Border Coalition will be moderating one of
Salvador López, chief environmental officer at the North American
Development Bank wants to support a modernized version of the San Antonio
de los Buenos treatment plant south of Tijuana. It has obsolete technology,
among many other imperfections. Mexico has paid much more attention to
what the U.S. wants in terms of pumping stations right at the border than to all
the untreated effluent that passes through San Antonio de los Buenos and
goes straight onto Tijuana beaches.
CommonPass is an attempt to create an international health protocol for
border crossings, thereby thwarting the economic devastation seen in border
cities (https://thecommonsproject.org/commonpass). The app uses a QR code
for travelers and is slated to begin on Hong Kong-Singapore flights with Cathay
Pacific Airlines this month. It will also start in Europe with some EU-Heathrow
I think our border can leverage this incredible option, though much work is
needed to connect labs with governments and the CommonPass team.
The San Diego Foundation has had a new CEO in Mark Stuart for the last year
(https://www.sdfoundation.org/) and is embarking on a very ambitious
inclusivity strategy. It has close to $1 billion in total assets and is looking to
expand its giving in the Imperial Valley, but most notably in Baja California. If
Mark’s accomplishments at the San Diego Zoo are any hint, we will see the
foundation do great work in Mexico very soon.
I was invited to the GAET (Specialized Transportation Attention Group) in
Tijuana to hear about the critical transportation problems at the Otay Mesa
Port of Entry. The group is led by the new Mexican National Guard and is
attended by small and large carriers in Baja.
It is evident that one of the largest headaches they have is the export corridor
on the Mexican side. Even though this is supposed to be a federal last mile
approaching the crossing, no agency has wanted to take on a sorely needed
management role. The corridor lends itself to drug and human trafficking, truck
lane cutters, and even some police officers taking bribes to let trucks cut lines.
The Tijuana Development Council celebrated its formal Assembly to install Luis
Lutteroth as their new President. It was a fitting event to commemorate a
transition that happened in August. Luis is poised to transform the way the
It runs in his blood. Lutteroth’s dad, Héctor, was a true force at the border, a
key player in the San Diego Dialogue, helping Director Chuck Nathanson bring
other Tijuana citizens into the organization. He provided invaluable support to
the Orchestra of Baja California, Iberoamericana University, the Centro Cultural
de Tijuana (CECUT), and the San Diego Natural History Museum.
I had a conversation with Wilson Institute’s Duncan Wood about how Canada
and Mexico could together work with the U.S. to develop common objectives
for our borders regarding efficiency. USMCA should give us the impetus to
establish concrete steps with Canadians to work towards smarter borders.
There are outstanding border champions in the Vancouver-Seattle area,
Detroit-Windsor and Buffalo-Niagara Falls.
Speaking about Canada, the Cascadia Innovation Corridor (CIC) region
encompassing Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland is probably the most
innovative along the northern border. Coalition friends Matt Morrison of the
Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWR) and Laurie Trautman of the
Border Policy Institute are on the group’s steering committee. They want to
position the CIC as a global innovation hub in life sciences, talent, higher
education research excellence, and efficient people/goods movement across
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) unveiled its “Cross
Border Travel Behavior Survey” at the Committee for Border Regional
Opportunities (COBRO) on October 6. Some key findings:
- Nine out of 10 northbound trips through San Ysidro and Otay come from
- The primary destination city in the U.S. is Chula Vista with 43% of cases,
followed by San Diego with 30% of cases.
- The main reason to come across is to shop (52%), followed by
work/business (31%), and then visiting a friend or relative.
- U.S. residents generally visit Mexico to socialize, followed by medical
care and shopping.
- There is a 78.5% willingness to pay a $5 toll and 86% to pay a $3 toll for an
expedited crossing as as is proposed for the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry
in the next three years.
The report is being finalized this month.
Silicon Valley Press’s Joe Dinucci and Atiya Dwyer are working with a number
of partners in the U.S. and Mexico to promote the book El Tercer País: San
Diego & Tijuana. Two Countries. Two Cities. One Community.
I want to thank the UCSD Rady School of Management’s Karen Jensen and
Monique Casellas for their help in coordinating the Border Innovation
nd Edition information session on October 7. I have been involved in
reviewing the applications. We will be inviting you to join us at the final judging
and awards session on December 1st
U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Passenger Meeting last week provided
some interesting data for our ports. If we compare crossing numbers from the
week of March 21st when non-essential travel restrictions started, to the week
of October 4th, there has been a 29% reduction in vehicle traffic and a 50%
reduction in pedestrian traffic. U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents
make up 91 to 94% of crossers.
Once restrictions have been lifted, Tecate’s schedule will likely be 6 a.m. to 10
p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. on Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 12
a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Rafael Fernández de Castro and team convened the sixth iteration of the
“Emerging Stronger Together” group that is making sense of the lessons
we’ve learned from the pandemic at the border. The U.S. and Mexico have
shared agricultural labor challenges such as low wages, low benefits, high-risk
third party labor recruiters, no career ladders, basic financial literacy and
education, affordable housing, and labor shortage.
The Community Alliance (Alianza Comunitaria BCS) that the International
Community Foundation (ICF, http://www.icfdn.org) has helped create in Baja
California Sur has provided emergency food relief for 97,000 families. The
objective is to encourage, amplify and maintain collective action towards the
creation of healthy food systems. It is “zero hunger challenge.”
ICF is also intent on creating a food alliance to serve the needy in Baja
The Otay Mesa East Port of Entry project is getting an enormous boost from
the Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transportation, which has now
awarded bids for project manager and the negotiation of the right-of-way land
purchases, including the road leading to the new port as well as the port
The Smart Border Coalition has helped form a small task force of regional
players to monitor and hopefully accelerate this process so that we have a new
port by 2024.
KPBS has embarked on a new podcast, “Port of Entry.” It focuses on “border
people who often inhabit the in-between space created by the separation and
collision of two cultures.” Each episode dives deeper into people's personal
stories, what makes them tick and how the border has shaped their lives.
Please tune in at http://www.portofentrypod.org.
I was invited as a special guest last week. I was impressed by the group’s
professionalism and attention to so many operational details. Kudos to Kinsee
Morlan, Alan Lilienthal and team for pulling this off!
Miguel Marshall of the City of Tijuana’s Sustainable Economy and Tourism
Secretariat (SEST) is about to begin leading the Baja Business Improvement
Districts or DREs (Distritos de Regeneración Económica). They have taken a
page out of San Diego’s successful efforts in its districts. The project was
unveiled at the beginning of the year, but COVID-19 kept it dormant. Tijuana
will be an important beneficiary in its Colonia Federal as will be Mexicali,
Ensenada, and Rosarito
Tijuana Economic Development Council’s Borderless Business Congress last
week and this week has focused on major topics for the region such as
advanced manufacturing, global logistics, blue and green tech, IT, and food and
beverage. Carlos Higuera’s leadership has enhanced the organization’s role as
the major protagonist in attracting foreign direct investment.
Maria Keckler of San Diego State University has been organizing the
RE:Border 2020 Conference which will focus on reimagining mobility and
migration in the transborder region. Set to take place November 12 and 13, it
promises to be an even better event than last year when the emphasis was on
Our online Stakeholders Working Committee meeting will happen November
th from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. It will be the last meeting of 2020. You can register
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information
about joining the meeting.
Please join us then!
With best wishes
Gustavo De La Fuente