Tijuandiego: Water, Capitalism, and Urbanization in the Californias, 1848-1982
Schwertner, Hillar Yllo
This is a history of Tijuandiego—the transnational metropolis set at the intersection of the United States, Mexico, and the Pacific World. Separately, Tijuana and San Diego constitute distinct but important urban centers in their respective nation-states. Taken as a whole, Tijuandiego represents the southwestern hinge of North America. It is the continental crossroads of cultures, economies, and environments—all in a single, physical location. In other words, Tijuandiego represents a new urban frontier; a space where the abstractions of the nation-state are manifested—and tested—on the ground. In this dissertation, I adopt a transnational approach to Tijuandiego’s water history, not simply to tell “both sides” of the story, but to demonstrate that neither side can be understood in the absence of the other.I argue that the drawing of the international boundary in 1848 established an imbalanced political ecology that favored San Diego and the United States over Tijuana and Mexico. The land and water resources wrested by the United States gave it tremendous geographical and ecological advantages over its reeling southern neighbor, advantages which would be used to strengthen U.S. economic and political power on the continent. California got the richest lands and ample water resources; Baja California got little of each. With greater access to water and capital, San Diego thrived as a U.S. military-industrial hub on the Pacific, consistently able to meet local water demands and plan ahead for the future. Tijuana, on the other hand, found itself constantly trying to stay afloat. It had less water, less capital, and was much more isolated from the national processes playing out in Mexico. The city’s development was thus inextricably intertwined with San Diego’s—it was much more attuned to the rhythms of southern California than to central Mexico. In some respects, Tijuana emerged as a transborder urban appendage—a place where both U.S. and Mexican capitalists sought to take advantage of the unique economic opportunities provided by the presence of the political boundary.