Fleeing Violence, Immigrants and Restaurants Move From Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego

January 20, 2010 8:32 am 6 comments

Los Arcos, Interior

San Diego — As Mexico’s two year-old drug war intensifies, leading to greater violence and insecurity in the city of Tijuana, many families are moving across the border to San Diego.

Some are taking their businesses with them.

From 2000 to 2008 there was a 34 percent increase in the number of Hispanics living in Chula Vista, San Diego’s second largest municipality, and an 11 percent increase in those living in San Diego. Overall Hispanics comprise 51 percent of the Chula Vista population and 28 percent of the San Diego population, according to the San Diego’s Regional Planning Agency.

“People go out less at night and business [at the Tijuana location] shrank,” according to Eduardo Angulo Venenzuela, a member of the family that owns the Mexican restaurant chain Los Arcos.

People living in San Diego go less frequently to Tijuana to eat as well, he added.

In order to compensate, many Tijuana restaurants came to them. Tacos El Gordo is a popular taco shop chain in Tijuana that recently opened a San Diego location. One online reviewer on Yelp aptly explained why the San Diego location is so popular, “I know the tacos in TJ [Tijuana] are so tasty and cheap but no one wants to go down there these days because of the killings.”

Other recently immigrated restaurants include Mariscos Titos, originally in Playas de Tijuana, and Achiote, a restaurant by the same owners as the famous La Espadaña Restaurant in Tijuana. Achiote has two locations in San Diego and there are plans to open an upscale taco restaurant called Tacos and Tarros in 2010, according to Keno Revilla, one of Achiote’s investors.

“When people move from one country to another, they take a few things with them and their cooking is one of them,” said Revilla.

While the violence in Tijuana was not the sole factor motivating Los Arcos to move to San Diego, the wave of recent Tijuana immigrants in San Diego helped the business to get started at its San Diego location, said Venenzuela.

Similarly, Revilla emphasizes that the owners of Achiote/La Espadaña were not “running away.” However, their immediate plans are to continue investing in San Diego rather than Tijuana.

Another noticeable change that accompanied recent demographic shifts in San Diego is that Mexican products are also now more easily accessible in the most unlikely of places. One example are Gansitos, the equivalent of Twinkies in Mexico, which can now be found among kiosks selling Rainbow sandals and designer sunglasses at the upscale mall, Fashion Valley in San Diego.

In spite of changes indicating a massive demographic shift in San Diego, it is difficult to quantify the exact number of immigrant families from Tijuana.

Some immigrants prefer to buy houses in San Diego and live in them part-time rather than obtaining permanent residency, according to Mely Cortes, a Certified Public Accountant (C.P.A.) in San Diego whose clients include recent immigrants from Tijuana.

“Many of these people do not intend to live here the rest of their lives, so they don’t really want to pay taxes from [the] income not obtained in the U.S.,” said Cortes. Those living in the U.S. for more than half a year must pay taxes as residents regardless of their residency status, she added.

For the long-time residents of San Diego of all ethnicities, however, these changes come with the added benefit of authentic Mexican food conveniently located on their side of the border.

“We take pride in what we do and we like to think of ourselves as ambassadors of real Mexican food,” said Revilla.

Image (Paola Reyes): Interior of Los Arcos Restaurant, San Diego.


  • In the article above the author shared this comment: “Many of these people do not intend to live here the rest of their lives, so they don’t really want to pay taxes from [the] income not obtained in the U.S.,” said Cortes. Those living in the U.S. for more than half a year must pay taxes as residents regardless of their residency status, she added.

    How in the heck to you think American citizens feel paying taxes to provide health care to illegal aliens ????

  • Maria Toscano

    How American’s feel about paying taxes to provide health care for illegal aliens is a topic for an entirely different article. Those families who can move their businesses across the boarder are very affluent and educated. They make a significant contribution to the local economy. It’s wonderful to see the resilience displayed by these hard working families.

  • I am so fed up people crying: “American citizens paying taxes to provide health care for illegal aliens.” Numer one, do you know how much tax revenue paid by illegal immigrants using fake ssn goes unclaimed every year?…Probably enough to take care of any health care cost incured by their “paisanos”…Illegals for the most part stay away from any government looking type deal. I have been to 30 of these United States, and I’ve been across illegals in almost all of them; and I can tell you that I have seen more Americans collecting all kinds of government help that they didn’t need or deserve, than I have seen illegals who need it, getting it. Number two, where is your sense of compassion. Why don’t you complain more about the obscenbillions of dollars each year dedicated to waste and abuse by military contractors. I promise you what ever cost illegals incur in our country times one thousand is a grain of sand compared. Third, do you know how much money illegals infuse into the country’s economy? These people do spend money on goods and services, not to mention the fact that these people fill all the cheap labor that enables tax paying Americans with cheap goods and services. And number four, Do you know about karma? Most of the states with the highest Mexican presence used to be Mexico the U.S. government underhandedly “bought” those states. You can change on a map where the borders lies, but you can not disappear an entitre culture that has been there 200 years longer than the country its in. Please America look at things for what they are. What happened to “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I guess the spirit of American freedoom was only meant for anglosaxon and not the culture that precedes their arraival. I guess San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Sacramento along with all the other billion spanish names all over the place came from irish settlers!

  • I’ve lived in California for my entire life. I’m a white American who loves my country. I pay taxes work harder then most and provide everything to my family without asking for one penny from the government. Lets be honest, the government has know for 20years about the influx of illegal immigrants coming into the country and did nothing about it. It was easy for all business to hire cheap labor to stay in the game. Everyone was doing it. If you didn’t you didn’t always get the job. No enforcement was made to keep a fair bidding on projects with contractors who paid all the fees and insurance required against those who didn’t. Jobs continued to go to the bid that was less money and still got the job done. Mexico paid its workers 8.00 to 10.00 a day. Workers could make in one day what it took them a week in Mexico. Why wouldn’t they want to come into this country? It was easy, jobs were easy to get and life was good for them. Let’s jump ahead and look at most of the workers in jobs that only Mexicans fill today. You can’t find a white male who wants those jobs in most cases. Even my boys are spoiled and want the jobs that have a title. Mexican people are a proud people, show up every day for work, clean and happy to work. They live with supporting a family on wages that Americans complain about. I see lots of white trash taking money from government and declaring they deserve it. Yes we have lots of problems with our jails filled with Hispanics and gang members . That’s another story for later. I feel if the government had stopped the influx of illegal immigrant’s years ago we would not have the resentments most Americans have today. But they closed their eyes. So today I place all the blame on our government. Not the Mexican people that came here to find work. Go back to the people voted into government and hang the blame on them. Since Hispanics are now here and part of our culture we should do our best to welcome them and respect their hard working attitude. We should take a hard look at the good ones that contribute and offer them what we handed out to the othe countries that came here due to a war. The ones that are in jail that are blood suckers to our country should be punished and made to work hard labor to pay for their cost to sociality just like the old days when we had chain gangs. It’s time we clean up our existing Mexican labor force, make sure they have insurance when driving, have drivers licenses since they dive anyway, and pay taxes under a correct ssn like everyone else. I think it is past due to close our borders and secure our country. Now were finally doing it. Why did it take so long. Its time we get tough and back to the basics our country begin with and stop crying about something that will not go home to Mexico. There here to stay and its time we understand that. Its time we also get rid of all the lawyers that are boold suckers as well. God bless america and god bless our troops.

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