I’ve been hearing tidbits from friends about how Rosarito, the beach town 30 minutes south of Tijuana, has been a hot bed of violence over the last few months. I initially chalked up the heightened tales to paranoia and over-caution, but then I began hearing about it more frequently, most recently from this story in the LA Times.
It’s a shame, really. Rosarito was just getting on its feet and making a name for itself, what with the influx of more upscale restaurants and Donald Trump moving into the nabe with his spa tower and high-class cuisine. When I first started visiting Baja just over a decade ago, Rosarito was little more than a street full of rival frat parties, most notably at such mega-bars as Papas & Beer.
Then, just a couple of years back, I began to notice a change, and not just the number of new concrete settlements being hastily constructed along the “Scenic” Route 1. Rosarito now had a jazz bar. And French food. And high-end spas. An Italian restaurant with creative Mexican infusions sported a cavernous underground dining room that hosted murder-mystery dinners. Heck, the area was even beginning to make a name for itself with its wineries, with trendsetters such as San Diego’s legendary Hotel del Coronado importing local vintages for their cutting-edge restaurants.
Yes, the rowdy college crowd persisted in taking its parties to the streets, and friends still returned with tales of corrupt police extracting exorbitant bribes for offenses as minor as jaywalking. But Baja was still a great weekend bargain, especially for stocking up on custom furniture and wrought-iron works.
I was planning to spend another New Year’s in Mexico, but the recent stories have made me rethink those plans, which is a shame. I was looking forward to introducing my friends to such favorite spots as Chipotle (not the chain, a family-owned establishment with delish breakfast dishes), the naked lady house outside Puerto Nuevo (pictured, from two New Years ago), and Fox Studios Baja (where parts of Titanic were shot), a pseudo-theme park that your insurance company would rather you never heard of. But I guess those moments will have to wait. C’mon, drug lords, can’t you take your shenanigans elsewhere? Leave Rosarito to us turistas.