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Tijuana — a religious experience… no, really!

17 August 2009

You thought Catholics were the only ones for whom a trip to Mexico was inspired by religion?  It was good old fashioned American Protestantism that made Tijuana a destination for tourists that rivals — and probably surpasses — Guadalupe when it comes to religiously motivated visitors.

In the 1920s, California was not the place to be for a man in a sinning frame of mind.  The temperance folks had given America Prohibition, and had tj-1920thrown in a ban on gambling while they were at it.  A guy couldn’t cavort with women, and thanks to the ban on cabaret dancing, he couldn’t even watch women cavorting by themselves.  If he was discovered in a hotel room with a woman not his wife, his name would appear in the section of the newspaper reserved for public shaming.  Everything was closed on Sundays.  The only place to go was church.  There he could hear the usual warnings about alcohol, gambling, dancing, and cavorting.  When Southern California ministers were really whipping their congregations into a froth, they would get rolling on the subject of “the Road to Hell,” a byway that ran south from San Diego.  At the end of it stood the town of Tijuana, “Sin City,” a place where all those despicable things, and a whole lot more, were done right out in the open.

You can’t buy that kind of advertising.  Thousands of Americans a day were sprinting for the border.

Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit: An American Legend (NY: Ballantine Book, 2001)

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