"Education is the gift that can never be taken away."

San Diego-Tijuana Borderland Keeps Community During Crisis

Travel restrictions due to the pandemic have kept us apart for over one year. We can appreciate our unique binational community even more, as a result.

Where the Californias Meet

The San Diego-Tijuana border region is unlike any other borderland in the world. We define the region as, “binational.” Meaning, it is a community of two countries. On the border, the United States and Mexico come together economically, politically and culturally. 

 The San Diego-Tijuana port of entry in San Ysidro is the busiest land border crossing in the western hemisphere. Here, the binational economy is valued at 230 billion dollars. 

Our economic ties along the border are more visible due to the pandemic. For example locally, the lack of Mexican clients crossing into the U.S. caused many San Diego small businesses to suffer and close. Nationally and globally, Tijuana’s thriving medical device manufacturing industry rapidly increased ventilator production to meet demand in North America and around the world.

Border Beyond the Numbers

However, the binational relationship goes beyond the trade numbers. The exchange of culture and community define the border region as much as the binational economy. The borderland in San Diego and Tijuana is home to many transfronterizos, who live fluid lives on both sides of the border.  As a binational organization, we foster connections between San Diego and Tijuana, to create better communities on both sides of the border.


Zoom meeting screenshot of students, holding up "Starry Night" paintings

ASF students in Tijuana, Mexico, virtually paint alongside friends of ASF in the United States. Students and friends show off their own versions of “Starry Night.” June 12, 2021.

Ties between the two cities foster innovation and creativity in solving local issues and improving the borderland. As a result, the San Diego-Tijuana region is on the shortlist along with Moscow, Russia to be selected as the World Design Capital for 2024. If chosen, it would be the first binational region to receive the title. 

Protect Thy Neighbor

In March of 2020, the United States and Mexico restricted travel across the border to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Border crossings are limited to “essential travel.” This is defined as travel for work, schooling, or medical care. These restrictions were routinely extended over the past year and a half. The U.S. currently aims to open up travel by the 21st of October. 


Masked students in blue polo shirts, stand in a line, holding mango iced treats.

Masked ASF students enjoy chamangos in Tijuana, on May 23, 2021. Students in Southern California fundraised to sponsor the celebration.

San Diego and Tijuana continue to work together to get the border region vaccinated.

As we make progress, there is still a great sense of loss. Time apart solidified the border as a barrier for organizations like ours, and presented us with new challenges. Even so, the binational community came together during this crisis in a wonderful way. Our organization receives support from both sides of the border, to help connect our students with laptops, mental health care and virtual activities to celebrate their perseverance.

Even when apart, our binational community has much to appreciate.

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