Cruzar la frontera en exceso es nocivo para la salud


ImageAdvertencia: la siguiente actividad es nociva para la salud. Puede ocasionar problemas respiratorios, cardiovasculares y cáncer. También puede generar problemas de nacimiento y aumentar el riesgo de la diabetes.

Podría sonar como la advertencia de una cajetilla de cigarros o una botella de alcohol, pero este mensaje es para todas las personas que cruzan con frecuencia la frontera entre Tijuana y San Diego.

Resulta que cruzar la frontera es malo para la salud, de acuerdo con un estudio de San Diego State University que culpa principalmente a las emisiones de gasolina y diesel de los autos parados en fila. Según el estudio, las personas que cruzan a pie absorben estos químicos cancerígenos a un nivel siete veces mayores al de una persona que vive en San Ysidro.

Así que la próxima vez que hagas tres o cuatro horas para cruzar la frontera y que te encuentres aguantándote las ganas de ir al baño en la comodidad de tu carro, o aguantándote las ganas de ir al baño en la incomodidad de la fila de peatones, acuérdate que la espera también podría matarte.

El cinismo suele ser la única defensa para quienes toda la vida hemos soportado este ridículo ritual de esperar horas para ir de Tijuana a San Diego. Los veteranos de la frontera sabemos que en esta frontera solamente los fuertes perduran. Si Charles Darwin estuviera vivo seguro aplicaría su teoría de la evolución por selección natural para estudiar a esta comunidad fronteriza.

No necesitamos un estudio para saber que cruzar la frontera es nocivo para la salud, aún para lossentrificados, que aunque suelen esperar menos tiempo para cruzar, de cualquier forma deben esperar su turno, el cual cada toma cada vez más tiempo.

Puedo pensar en muchas otras formas en que cruzar la frontera es malo para la salud. Por ejemplo, aguantarse las ganas de orinar. ¿Sabías que esto podría dañar tu vejiga y causar todo tipo de enfermedades? Yo conozco a papás que tienen botellas vacías de agua en el auto en caso de que sus hijos pequeños necesiten ir al baño. O bueno, dicen que es para los niños.

Cruzar puede ser estresante por muchos otros motivos.

Lo peor es estar atorado en la fila sabiendo que vas a llegar tarde a una cita en San Diego, o cuando te toca ir a revisión secundaria en un tan día caluroso que tu camisa se queda pegada al asiento del carro cuando te ordenan bajar del auto.

Es estresante esperar sin poder revisar tu correo electrónico o leer las noticias en tu teléfono porque el dueño de la recepción de tu celular es una compañía llamada Telcel, y si te atreves a navegar internet o mandar una foto te llegará una factura con cargos tan largos como la fila que acabas de hacer.

Encima de eso, yo suelo ir a Tijuana cuando hay fiestas o eventos, lo cual me expone más al consumo de bebidas alcohólicas que dañan el hígado, cigarros que afectan los pulmones y postres que dan diabetes. El otro día comí un callo de hacha porque quería comer algo saludable y terminé con una infección estomacal que duró más de una semana.

No estoy seguro por qué los investigadores decidieron hacer un estudio sobre la salud del cruce fronterizo. Todos sabemos que no es una actividad saludable, especialmente cuando recibes un trato despectivo por parte de un agente malhumorado por pasar el día inhalando gases cancerígenos.

Si el estudio es para presionar a los funcionarios a que agilicen el paso fronterizo, mucha suerte.

El Congreso aún no ha aprobado los cientos de millones de dólares necesarios para terminar la expansión del cruce de la garita de San Ysidro. No lo han hecho a pesar de las pérdidas multimillonarias que generan las largas esperas. Y típicamente les importa más eso que la salud de nuestra vejiga, corazón, pulmones, riñones e hígado.

Lo bueno es que hay doctores buenos en Tijuana. Las medicinas también son más baratas.

Arizona law clouds Congressman Brian Bilbray’s judgment


MSNBC host Chris Matthews asked Congressman Brian Bilbray if he could offer a non ethnic aspect in which a police officer could stop someone who they suspect was in the country illegally. To which he answered: “They will look at the kind of dress you wear, there’s different types of attire, right down to the shoes, right down to the clothes.”

That left me scratching my head.

So I called him. My phone call wouldn’t be much of an inconvenience, I assumed. After all, as one of his constituents, he calls me and leaves me messages all the time letting me know about his work in Washington DC.

I almost feel like we’re friends.

I figure if he could teach me how to judge people by their clothes, maybe I would learn how to single out thieves and other ominous people. Maybe I could even tell whether a boyfriend is good fit for one of my daughters.

Bilbray was unavailable. He was probably working on a very important project, and I’m sure I’ll hear about it when he calls me with an update. But I did manage to speak with Fritz Chaleff, his communications director.

He defended his boss’ comments. He argued that the clothes people wear can reveal whether somebody is doing something illegal. He explained, for example, a gentleman wearing a suit and tie at the beach and wearing running shoes.

“Something is not right with that,” he said.

It’s funny he said that.

He obviously never met Nick Inzunza, the former mayor of National City, because that’s precisely what he wore. He wore a suit and a tie and running shoes.

Although he might be guilty of other things, such as bad taste and treating his tenants poorly, he is an American citizen. Poor Nick. I hope he doesn’t go dressed that way on his next trip to Arizona or he he’ll be sent to Mexico.

I also asked Chaleff if the congressman was at all concerned about a police officer stopping US citizens or legal permanent residents simply because of the color of their skin.

Nope. He doesn’t.

The truth is this law allows police officers to detain people not because of the clothes they’re wearing but solely on the basis of their appearance: dark hair, dark eyes and dark skin. The clothes argument is just a way to negate the obvious: this law legalizes racial profiling.

The law was signed last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, but it won’t take effect until late July or the beginning of August, if it survives the barrage of legal affronts. The good thing about this law is that it is bringing illegal immigration back to the national consciousness. Congress might actually move on immigration reform because of it.

I’ve covered immigration for many years, and I’ve learned that it’s hard to single out illegal immigrants. I can think of several instances in which I would go to a day labor site where you would assume day laborers were illegal immigrants.

But that wasn’t the case.

I often found myself speaking to legal residents or citizens. And yes, there were some who were in the country illegally.

So I learned that it was best not assume anything when it came to illegal immigration.

In case you didn’t know, Bilbray is one of those politicians with a penchant for blaming undocumented immigrants for many social ills.

The Republican congressman rarely passes up the opportunity to remind me and my neighbors of the 50th District in San Diego County that he is working hard to fight illegal immigration.

But he outdid himself when he said on national television that it’s possible to sniff out illegal immigrants just by looking at them.

If I ever get to talk to him when he calls my home, my advice to the congressman would be to stay away from generalizing people when it comes to illegal immigration. I would tell him that I would never say that all white Republican politicians are prejudiced against Latinos. Athough I would certainly agree that some of them are.

Our border lifestyle is slowly dying


Other business owners would have given up a long time ago. But it’s hard to close a store your parents bought from the meager profits of selling cigarettes and sombreros in the streets of Tijuana.

Even though the last two years have been the hardest for Angie’s Place, a Mexican arts and crafts store on Revolution Ave., Angelina Velazquez refuses to give up. She is 77 and determined to turn around the store her parents sacrificed so much to buy.

Days go by without selling a single item, but she still manages to pull through. Some weeks she pays her employees only part of their salary.

The point is to stay open, she says.

“I do it to honor my parents.”

She reminded me of how much we’ve lost as border residents in the last 10 years.

It wasn’t long ago that I would go to Tijuana just to eat some street tacos, the best in Mexico. I used to go to restaurants, movies and I would cross at a moment’s notice to see friends and family.

The only downside was a long but tolerable wait to cross back into San Diego.

But now things are about to get even harder for people whose livelihood depend on tourists or visitors from north of the border, and generally for people who cross the border on a regular basis.

The long waits of late to cross into Mexico will become permanent in January when the Mexican government completes a port modernization that includes new security measures designed to stem the flow of weapons and money from the U.S.

The purpose is to weaken Mexican drug traffickers.

I wonder how effective these new measures will be given the U.S. spends billions of dollars more in border security, but only manages to intercept a small quantity of drugs and other contraband.

The long waits to cross into Mexico are just another blow to our border lifestyle, which has been slowly dying.

The new security measures put in place after the September 11 attacks made the long lines crossing north longer and slower. Then came the kidnappings and beheadings, which scared many away.

The recession took away our disposable income, and if that wasn’t enough, the U.S. government made us spend time and money getting a passport just to cross back to San Diego.

A passport to go to Revolución?

Now we’ve come full circle with long lines to cross into Mexico.

One more excuse not to visit Baja California.

I sympathize with the thousands of families that will now have to spend more time in their cars instead of with their families. It seems Mexico City, like Washington D.C., forgets that people work and live on both sides of the border.

Some, like Velazquez, refuse to give in.
Her store on 4th and Revolution has given her a comfortable lifestyle and helped finance the college education of several family memberS, some of whom live and work in San Diego.

These days, Velazquez says Europeans are keeping her store alive.

It seems they are the only one who still get excited about taking a photo in Mexico wearing a sombrero and sitting on a donkey dressed as a zebra.

I’m glad someone still has the luxury to cross to Tijuana just to have fun, even if they have to come from the other side of the Atlantic. And that’s a good enough reason for Velazquez to stay open.

“I wouldn’t like to see Europeans visiting Tijuana and nobody there to welcome them.”

It’s the hotel that should change its name


WhittenI’ve always had mixed feelings about my name, Hiram.

It rarely went unnoticed when I lived in Mexico. It wasn’t like those conversations that began with something like “Hi, my name is Raul” followed by a natural change of topic.

With Hiram, there was always something.

Every time I needed a government document, bureaucrats would write my name without the H. Other times people will remind me that my name sounded like that of a famous female singer I never knew or cared about.

Now that I live here in the States, people often ask me if I am Arab, Jew or Turkish. Sometime people think my name is Iran, a country known for its wars and Muslim extremists.

Maybe that’s why I thought it wasn’t such a bad idea when I heard that a hotel owner in Taos, New Mexico, ordered some of his Latino employees to use the English equivalents of their names. He also forbid them to speak Spanish at work because he was afraid that they will talk behind his back, as if changing people’s names wouldn’t be something to talk about.

Larry Whitten, the owner of Whitten Inn, said it was common for hotel employees who work directly with the public to change their first names if these were difficult to pronounce.

Personally, I don’t remember meeting a Mary instead of Maria or a Joseph instead of José at the many hotels I’ve stayed in Rosarito, where the vast majority of guests come from the United States.

Witthen, who had turned around about 20 troubled hotels in Texas, said his managerial style has nothing to do with racism.

But neither his employees nor many in the Latino community believed him, and some protested in front of his business.

It’s ironic that it’s come to this because the hotel operates in a county where more than 50 percent of the population is Latino, and where more than 50 percent of residents speak Spanish, according to U.S. Census data.

But he doesn’t need to check governments statistics to understand his surroundings.

His hotel is located on a street called Paseo Del Pueblo; the name of the state includes the word Mexico, and Gov. Bill Richardson, a former presidential candidate, live part of his childhood in Mexico City.

If anything, the hotel should change its name from Whitten Inn to Brownie Inn.

Personally, it’s hard for me to understand the difference between Martín and Martin, or Marcos and Mark, the names of the employees who were rebaptized by their boss. I would understand if he had an employee named Petronilastacio Nacletaldo Furibundo answering the phones.

But nobody has that name.

If I was his employee, I would ask him to let me choose my own name because I’m not particularly fond of the English version of Hiram, HIGH-RUM.

But then I stop and think about the time I went to get a tire change and a Persian employee gave me a discount because he thought I was Arab. Or the time when a beautiful girl told me that my name was so different that it was unforgettable. Maybe she was trying to tell me I had a pretty name.

Hiram, through its derivatives, has become sort of like a chameleon.

I am Iran among Arabs, Iram with Latinos and HIGH-RUM with Anglos. In at least one birthday someone made a point of singling out my name by giving me a bottle of the not-so-famous whiskey Hiram Walker.

I tried to find a way to go around this complicated process, at least when I buy coffee. To save employees the hassle of asking me “What did you say your name was?,” I used to say my name was simply Soto.

But then one day a lady asked me: “Are you Japanese?”

Now that I think about it, it would be too boring if my name was Raúl. I think I’ll keep my rather imperfect but entertaining name.

Besides, that’s what my parents wanted people to call me.