Chapter 6 : Revolutionary San Diego and Tijuana

5. How did Tijuana grow?

During the period of the Mexican Revolution and up to the 1930s, Tijuana experienced a period of economic and demographic growth largely due to tourist enterprises owned and operated by Americans. One of the first was one centering on the natural hot springs, the Tijuana Hot-Spa Hotel, built in 1885 and owned by P.L.Carle. This was followed by the construction of dog and horse racing tracks, casinos and other hotels. Mexicano entrepreneurs opened the first bull ring by 1910. When tourists visited San Diego during the Panama Exposition in 1915, they also traveled to Tijuana, which had recreation activities that were illegal in California. The Tijuana attractions, the Jockey Club, Trivoli Bar, the Foreign Club, the Sunset Inn and Agua Caliente Casino were all owned by Anglo-Americans and employed mostly American workers. This was a source of constant resentment with the Mexican labor unions and government.

A tremendous impetus for the growth of tourism was the enactment of Prohibition in the U.S. Over night Tijuana became a Mecca for those who wanted to drink liquor and have a good time. By the end of the 1920s there were more than 260 businesses located in the downtown area, many of them along Revolucíon. These included many service businesses besides bars. Besides liquor Tijuana also had the attraction of almost unregulated prostitution and related vice establishments. This period in the city's growth engendered many negative stereotypes about Mexicans and border towns in the minds of visiting American tourists. These attitudes were generalized to Mexican Americans who lived in San Diego.

It was not until the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas that Mexico moved to end gambling and American control of the tourist industry in Tijuana. In 1934, by presidential decree Cárdenas outlawed gambling and in 1937 the government expropriated American owned property in Tijuana. Some of the casinos were converted to schools and those Mexicanos who lost their jobs were given government employment.