A trolley ride, some backslapping and handclasping, and a shared meal were part of the festivities Wednesday as the mayors of San Diego and Tijuana made good-will visits to each other's cities.
Along the way, Mayor Roger Hedgecock and Mayor Rene Trevino unveiled three signs with question marks on them--the international symbol for information--at the Santa Fe Depot in San Diego, at the San Ysidro pedestrian border crossing and at a tourist information booth in Tijuana.
"The signs are designed to help tourists from all over the world who come to see San Diego and Tijuana. They can get information about both cities," Hedgecock said.
He said the economic futures of the two cities are intertwined. "We all understand how important U.S. tourism and U.S. tourist dollars are to the economy of Tijuana," Hedgecock said, "but it is also true that Mexican tourism and Mexican tourist dollars are important to the economy of San Diego.
"There were last year in San Diego 6.5 million visitors from Mexico spending their money in our stores, our restaurants, our hotels--for which we are grateful."
Trevino said Tijuana and San Diego do have conflicts, but through the years these problems have been minimal compared to the amount of interaction between the two cities. "I don't think any other border town has 38 million crossings a year," Trevino said.
The two gravest problems facing Tijuana and San Diego are illegal aliens and Mexican sewage ending up in American waters, Trevino said. But ironically neither of these problems falls into the jurisdiction of the municipalities.
Hedgecock thanked the federal government of Mexico for building and operating sewage pumps to help put an end to the sewage problem. "Let me congratulate you for the work, the investment, in solving one of these problems. We realize what a sacrifice to your economy this is," he said.
The San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau arranged the day's activities. "ConVis' job is to bring tourist to San Diego, and Mexico is one of the largest attractions we have," said Sue Stephens Cox, president of the bureau. "Everyone always thinks of American money going into Tijuana, but a tremendous amount of San Diego retail sales depend on Mexican money."
Alfonso Bustamante Jr., president of the Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau, said the day signified the friendly relationship between the two cities. "Tourism in both Californias should increase with the increased use of the international signs," he said.
The visit proved that stories of bad relations between Tijuana and San Diego are untrue, agreed Jose Luis Rendon, secretary of tourism for the state of Baja California Norte. "The fact that the mayor of San Diego has visited Tijuana demonstrates the great confidence on his part, and it also signifies the friendship between the two mayors," Rendon said.