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He has spent the last three nights leading a group of Americans on a tour of Tijuana night life. Few people know Tijuana as well as Lam does. Born and raised in the Tj clubbing tonight, he worked for the Tijuana Chamber of Commerce, the Cultural Center, and various restaurants and hotels before going independent as a liaison for American tour groups. There are places where you see hardly any Americans, and there are places where you see hardly any Mexicans.
Most popular with Americans, Lam said, are high-tech rock discotheques like Oh! Mexicans, on the other hand, have returned to the traditional, favoring a handful of nightclubs that feature live singers or bands performing indigenous music like Norteno, cumbias, tangos or romantic ball. Lam laughingly recalls that when he was growing up in Tijuana in the s, the night life scene was as segregated as it is today, although in a substantially different way.
Back then, the Americans who came down were mostly sailors, and their destination was the topless ts all along Avenida Revolucion. The star attraction at the latter nightclub was none other than Carlos Santana, who played guitar there nightly with a variety of local groups before his late-'60s move to San Francisco, where he formed a band called Santana. By the early s, Lam added, the fascination with rock had started to wear off. And when disco fever hit the United States around that time, Mexican nightclubs were quick to follow suit.
And I was basically a one-man show, running the whole system by myself. Gradually, Lam said, more and more discos began springing up all over Tijuana, although their clientele was mostly Mexican and the music they played was primarily soul ball and Latin dance tunes. But then, a few years ago, the peso devaluations began, and in their attempts to attract more Americans, nightclub owners began sprucing up their establishments and incorporating more new wave and rock tunes. Their efforts were buoyed by the demise of the strip ts, which for years had been the sole outposts for Americans in search of nighttime entertainment.
At the same time, their success hastened that demise. And the only new ones that are opening up are a cheaper variety that are opening up farther north in the Zona Norte.
His meal completed, Lam stood and shook hands with his American guests. He spotted someone else in the restaurant he knew, and after an acknowledging smile and a wave, he returned his attention to his departing amigos. All Sections. About Us. B2B Publishing. Business Visionaries. Hot Property. Times Events.
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Tijuana Nightlife • A Complete Guide