The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 2002, Volume 48, Number 3
Gregg Hennessey, Editor

Images from the Article

Americans have long viewed Baja California as a kind of “frontier” region with great potential for economic development. In earlier periods, it was believed that the area held great mineral riches. Americans took part in the many “rushes” that occurred in the northern part of the peninsula during the latter half of the nineteenth century, particularly those at Real del Castillo (1870-1871) and El Alamo (1888-1889). Although the hoped for mineral bonanza never materialized, many Americans believed that the territory might eventually yield riches of one kind or another.1

In the late 1880’s, the emerging border community of Tijuana began to play a role as a tourist center for U.S. and other international visitors. This was largely a result of the boom in construction and real estate development in the San Diego region. As the land boom spread through the South Bay region to the border, together with the establishment of a railway connection to that point, San Diego and Tijuana also became more closely interconnected. Another area of tourism developed in the closing years of Porfirio Diaz’ regime (1876-1911), when the Mexican government granted the first gambling concessions in Baja California’s Distrito Norte (Northern District). The development of Tijuana’s vice industry made rapid strides in succeeding years, reaching its period of maximum expansion in the 1920’s and early 1930’s.

This article analyzes the forces that led to the growth of Tijuana’s vice industry, with a focus on the role of U.S. entrepreneurs in this process. It also seeks to examine the reactions of local Mexican businessmen to this development and the policies adopted by the Baja Californian and federal authorities with regard to the vice industry’s regulation and control. Finally, it analyzes the factors which led to the federal government’s decision to close the nation’s casinos, which brought to an end the “Golden Age” of the vice industry in Tijuana and other Mexican cities.


Tijuana’s Emergence as a Tourist Center

The completion of the transcontinental railroad with the California Southern Railroad on November 9, 1885, linking the port of San Diego with San Bernardino and Barstow, sparked a mania of land speculation and construction in the region. The city began to lay out new subdivisions, while about 20 additional towns were founded in the county. The prosperity allowed several public works projects to be undertaken, such as the paving of streets, the construction of inter-urban rail and cable car lines, as well as hydraulic works to provide the city with water. New schools, as well as a public library and an opera house, were also built.2

Despite the flurry of speculation and development, San Diego retained its seamier side, a reminder that the city still retained some of the rougher edges of its frontier heritage. As Walter Gifford Smith, editor of The San Diego Sun, commented, “gambling was open and flagrant; games of chance were carried on at the curbstones; painted women paraded the town in carriages and sent out engraved cards summoning men to their receptions and ‘high teas’ – Theft, murder, incendiarism, carousals, fights, highway robbery and licentiousness gave to the passing show in boomtide San Diego many of the characteristics of the frontier camp.”3

San Diego’s greatest expansion during this period occurred southwards around the bay. The National City and Otay Railway Company, owned by the Land and Town Company (a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railroad), constructed a line south from the National City terminal to Otay Mesa, with branches to the community of Tia Juana (San Ysidro) and to Oneonta, in Imperial Beach. A number of suburbs were planned in the areas served by these two branch lines: Tia Juana Heights, Fruitland, Tia Juana Junction, Tia Juana City and Oneonta. Land values and sales in these areas rose sharply, owing to their proximity to the border, as well as the possibilities that they offered for the expansion of agriculture.4

The Tijuana region was not affected initially by the development boom because of a legal dispute over ranch lands formerly belonging to Santiago Arguello (1791-1862). The dispute arose between his widow Pilar Ortega and other members of the ranchman’s family.5 Despite this litigation, a small settlement had begun to form in the area. In addition to the customhouse and the cattle ranch belonging to the Arguello family, there were also a number of wood and adobe huts, some stores (the largest of which belonged to William Lane), a butcher shop belonging to James Arguello, a school and a church. There were also some hot springs located approximately four miles south of Tijuana. A hotel and restaurant had been erected at the springs some years previously, where people having rheumatism and skin diseases could be treated.6

Tijuana became an important attraction for tourists visiting San Diego, especially after the completion of the Hotel Del Coronado on February 1, 1888. The National City and Otay Railroad ran three daily excursion trains to Oneonta. From there, the tourists could board horse-drawn carriages to take them to the international boundary marker on the coast where they could look into Mexico. Other excursion trains ran to the south bay suburban community of Tia Juana, where tourists boarded wagons which took them across the line to the Agua Caliente health spa.7

On arriving in Tijuana, the tourist found a variety of interesting attractions and features to choose from. There were horse races, which were advertised daily in San Diego newspapers. The races were organized by a group of merchants and ranchers in both Tia Juana and Tijuana, such as Joseph Messenger, Alejandro Savín and Felipe Crosthwaite. There were also corridas de toros (bullfights), peleas de gallos (cockfights) and bailes étnicos (native dances). Certain Mexican festive holidays, such as Cinco de Mayo and 16 de septiembre (National Independence Day) also attracted many visitors. All of the entertainments were popular with San Diegans and other tourists and helped them to feel that they were in a foreign country.8

The development of this border tourist trade in 1888 and 1889, together with the presence of new settlers on the lands of the Tia Juana ranch, induced the Arguello family to reach a settlement concerning the property litigation. Their decision was also based on the fact that several members of the family, as well as some of their relatives from the Olvera family of Tijuana property owners, resided in California. They could see the advantages of opening the ranch property to town lot development. The agreement ended the litigation and was approved on July 12, 1889. It set aside a portion of the ranch to form the town site of Zaragoza de Tijuana.9

By the late spring of 1888, the boom in San Diego was over. Although the city’s population dropped over the next half year from 35,000 to 16,000, it was still approximately three times as large as before the boom.10 Many investors lost money with the collapse of the real estate market and the halt in construction. The boom had brought many civic improvements that would facilitate future growth and development. With the expansion of the urban areas towards the border, San Diego had also been linked in a physical, economic, and social sense with the emerging town of Tijuana.11

San Diego and Tijuana after the Boom

In 1896, shortly after the outbreak of the Cuban independence struggle, San Diego’s economy began to experience another change that would define its character throughout much of the twentieth century. In that year, Congress decided on measures to strengthen the port’s fortifications. This process would ultimately lead to the transformation of San Diego into one of the country’s principal naval bases.12 San Diego’s hopes for a direct rail connection to eastern U.S. markets were eventually fulfilled in 1919 with the completion of the San Diego and Arizona Railway, which linked the city with Yuma, Arizona.13

Tijuana’s tourist industry, while still dependent on San Diego, continued to grow during the 1890s. Several curio, or souvenir, stores were opened, like those owned by Alejandro Savín and Jorge Ibs. These businesses sold sombreros, silver jewelry, Mexican flags, postcards and other articles. The town also possessed a number of restaurants featuring Mexican food. By 1900, Tijuana had a population of 242, with a further 108 inhabitants living in the town’s outlying areas.14

Gambling activities made their appearance in Tijuana during the last years of the Porfiriato (1876-1911). A federal decree of December 12, 1907, which was to take effect as of February 8, 1908, made gambling legal in the region and specified how it was to be regulated. This decree constituted the first legal disposition with regards to the establishment and operation of games of chance, lotteries, and similar activities in Baja California. Most types of races were permitted, along with dice and card games. Roulette and slot machines, however, were prohibited.15

Soon after the decree’s publication, several U.S. and Mexican entrepreneurs obtained gambling permits from the Mexican federal government. Gerónimo U. Sandoval, president of Tijuana’s Jockey Club, obtained a permit to build a horse racing track, a hotel and a casino. Gambling, however, was limited to the casino games. Sandoval promised to pay the Tijuana municipal treasury five per cent of the profits resulting from the race track. The American John E. Russell also obtained a permit for the construction of a race course in Tijuana, which would include a 500 meter circular track for greyhound races. Only Russell’s greyhound track was put into operation; neither of the horse racing track proposals were realized during this period due to lack of sufficient capital for construction. Other permits were granted to J. Loperena, Juan B. Apablesa, Antonio Gonzalez and J.L. Smith for the construction of bullrings. Smith was also given authorization to hold jewelry and gem raffles in the town.16

The most successful of the gambling permit holders of this early period was the American-born José R. Alvarez. Alvarez operated a cantina called “The Club.” Alvarez’s business was popular with patrons not only for the liquor it sold, but also because it had games of faro and monte. Dog races were also hosted occasionally.17

A movement in opposition to certain forms of entertainment in Tijuana also took root in San Diego and southern California during this same period. This crusade for moral reform was a product of the Progressive Movement, which was particularly strong in the state. Since the Progressives held that men had moral obligations to fulfill in political and economic life, they also believed in the necessity of enacting legislation for “moral” purposes. They campaigned for such things as the abolition of prizefighting, “a form of moral debauchery” they called it in gambling slang, which they maintained was a “coverup for profanity,” prostitution, and the liquor business. Since liquor, gambling, prizefights, and prostitution interests played a prominent role in corrupt machine politics, the Progressives considered their removal from public life to be essential.18 They also associated these so-called vices with foreign elements. Progressives and other moral reformers, for example, considered the fan-tan gaming houses, opium dens, and prostitution, which supposedly abounded in the Chinatowns of major U.S. cities, as corrupting influences on the white population. They also viewed saloons as redoubts that mainly harbored foreigners, especially Roman Catholic foreigners, such as the Irish.19

With the boom of the 1880s and the demand for many types of manual labor, Los Angeles and other southern Californian cities also possessed expanding Mexican barrios. The growth of these barrios resulted from the arrival of migrants from Mexico in search of jobs which their homeland could not provide. The dominant Anglo-Saxon hierarchy feared that the continued growth of this foreign and Catholic segment of the population would alter the racial and cultural complexion of their cities as well. Although cheap Mexican labor was essential for many areas of economic development, the Anglo-Saxon elite, as in the case of the Chinese in earlier decades, opposed the large-scale immigration of Mexicans, together with their cultural influences.20 This nativist sentiment doubtless also played a role in their opposition to certain sports activities and the inauguration of gambling houses a short distance across the border in Mexico.

The earliest activities in Tijuana to come under the attack of the Progressive moral reformers were the bullfights. In part, the American public’s opposition to bullfighting was rooted in the English “Black Legend” concerning Spain and its colonial empire.21 Bullfighting, along with cockfighting and bear-baiting, had been prohibited in California in the early 1850s. The Californians’ attitudes to these sports had not changed much over the ensuing half century. “The hot spirit of the chili con carne absorbing population yearns for blood,” wrote a San Diego Sun reporter of one bullfight held in Tijuana in late July 1904. “The matadores are sharpening their swords,” the commentator continued, “to make beef of half-starved cows and Tia Juana will be gay with barbaric festivity.”22 In 1904 and 1905, groups of San Diego moral reformers petitioned the Mexican government to outlaw this event in Tijuana. Their requests were unheeded, however, and the bullfights were allowed to continue.23

The attacks on the Tijuana bullfights were followed by others that were directed against the town’s horse racing activities. In California, book-making on horse races had been prohibited by the Walker-Otis Act of 1909.24 That same year, representatives of the U.S. embassy in Mexico City requested that the Mexican government repeal the 1907 gaming decree for Baja California. They argued that, according to some observers, the establishment of such activities in Mexican territory would attract undesirable persons who would cause problems of public order in U.S. towns and cities close to the border. In response to this petition, Mexico’s Secretaría de Gobernación (Secretary of the Interior) prohibited horse racing with betting and gambling houses within a two-mile strip along the Mexican side of the line.25

Tijuana’s vice industry received a significant boost to its development during the town’s occupation on May 9, 1911, by a group of approximately 220 insurrecto soldiers under the Welsh soldier of fortune Caryl Ap Rhys Pryce. Pryce commanded the so-called “Second Division” of the rebel group which operated in the Distrito Norte as part of the series of revolts undertaken by Ricardo Flores Magón and the Mexican Liberal Party from 1910-1911. The Magonistas aimed at the overthrow of the Díaz government and the creation of an anarcho-communist social order in Mexico. Pryce was forced to resort to any means possible for raising funds in order to continue the march on Ensenada, the remaining federal garrison in the region. The town’s cantinas were reopened and permits granted to those entrepreneurs who wished to open casinos or gaming houses. On March 14, 1911, Pryce granted a concession to U.S. citizen W.J. Johnson for the establishment of a casino with dice games. This was followed by concessions for other games of chance, such as roulette, faro, poker, Klondyke, twenty-one and wheel of fortune. In addition to the sale of gaming house permits, the Magonistas also received 25 per cent of the winnings obtained from these sources. Pryce forwarded hundreds of dollars raised by these methods, as well as the sale of postcards and revenue from the town’s customs house, to the Liberal junta headquarters in Los Angeles as a deposit for the purchase of arms and munitions.26

U.S. capitalists with extensive agricultural and ranching investments in the Mexicali Valley region, such as Harrison Gray Otis, owner of the Los Angeles Times, his son-in-law Harry Chandler, and C.D. Cudahy, head of the powerful Chicago meatpacker family, were alarmed at Pryce’s capture of the border town, since the defeat of the remaining federal forces in the peninsula appeared imminent. Also concerned was John D. Spreckels, owner of the San Diego Union and San Diego Evening Tribune, as well as the San Diego-Arizona Railway, whose Mexican portion, as yet unfinished, ran through rebel-held territory. These magnates encouraged the Mexican government’s efforts to crush the revolt and also persuaded the U.S. government to increase border security to prevent arms, recruits and other forms of aid from reaching the rebels.27

The fact that a free-booting soldier of fortune, who was of neither U.S. nor Mexican nationality, had given vice entrepreneurs a free rein in a town lying practically on San Diego’s doorsteps was likely disturbing to California’s moral reform movement leaders. The Second Division’s control of the town, with its open invitation to businessmen to establish casinos and cantinas, was doubtless perceived to be a distinct setback for the moral crusade movement in southern California.28

However, neither the capitalists nor moral reformers need worry, since the peninsula revolt was already in decline under its own volition. The junta had spent their existing treasury funds on other uses, mainly propaganda. They had no surplus cash to satisfy Pryce’s request for armaments. At the end of May 1911, the Welsh adventurer, accompanied by his adjutant C.W. “Melbourne” Hopkins, left for Los Angeles for the purpose of finding out what had happened to the funds sent to the junta. He also wished to discuss with Flores Magón the future of the rebellion in view of the fact that the more moderate Anti-Reelectionist faction led by Francisco I. Madero had already achieved victory in the rest of Mexico. In view of Flores Magon’s obstinate determination to carry on the struggle with no armaments, Pryce resigned.29

Tijuana’s cantinas and casinos continued to function until the second week of June, when Jack Mosby shut them down. He was the successor of Pryce as commander of the Second Division. Mosby adopted this measure as a last desperate measure to improve the discipline and combat readiness of his troops. The saloons and casinos remained closed following the rebels’ defeat on June 22, 1911 by a strong federal column from Ensenada.30

During this same period, the Progressive moral reform movement in California had reached its peak. Additional state legislation was enacted to prohibit racetrack gambling altogether and slot machines were declared illegal. Due to the police raid on San Diego’s downtown Stingaree and the Red Light District on November 10, 1912, many brothel operators and prostitutes evicted from the area had been forced to relocate in Los Angeles and other regions. Prostitution in California was further limited by the Red Light Abatement Act of 1913, which declared that all buildings and places in which acts of lewdness or prostitution occurred or were used for such purposes were subject to abatement or closure as a public nuisance. Several California promoters of gaming, liquor sales, and prostitution decided to move their operations to Mexicali and Tijuana. In 1913 Marvin Allen, Frank Beyer, and Carl Withington, owners of saloons and brothels in Bakersfield, California, formed the ABW Corporation for the purpose of setting up similar establishments in these two border towns.31

In Baja California’s Distrito Norte there was a growing local business sector that profited from the establishment of cantinas, casinos and brothels, which often operated under the same roof or occupied the same premises. They were not, therefore, adverse to tolerating and even encouraging such activities. The jefe político, the District’s governing authority, who was directly responsible to the Secretaría de Gobernación in México, also profited from these businesses. The Ayuntamiento (town council) of Ensenada sent numerous complaints to the Secretaría de Gobernación in which it claimed that the jefe político, and at times the subprefecto of Mexicali, personally pocketed the money from government permits and taxes from these sources.32

The most notorious abuses of this type were those committed by general Manuel Gordillo Escudero, who governed the Distrito Norte from late August 1911 until the end of 1912. In response to the continued complaints from the local authorities, the Secretaría de Gobernación sent agent Francisco Portillo to the region to investigate the matter at first hand. In the case of Mar Hung, a Chinese gaming house manager who had been arrested for operating certain games not authorized by the government “such as fan tan, Chinese dominoes and a money lottery” it was discovered that the accused “had secretly made payments of 200 pesos monthly to the Jefatura Política.” In his deposition to the federal agent, Mar Hung added that “the Jefatura‘s secretary had made him sign, under threat of imprisonment, a document stating that he had never deposited in the Jefatura Política the sum of 650 pesos which he claimed to have paid to that office.” In September 1912, following Portillo’s submission of his report to Gobernación, Gordillo Escudero was ordered to return to Mexico City. On December 21, 1912, the general resigned from his position as jefe político.33

Similar complaints were made against the jefe políticos during the dictatorship of General Victoriano Huerta (1913-1914). This was the case, in particular, of Francisco N. Vazquez, whom Huerta appointed jefe político of the region in late September 1913. Vasquéz, in his greed for wealth, took personal charge of all taxes on casino and saloon profits. He also “pitilessly exploited the troops, maintaining shops and cantinas in the barracks themselves, forbidding them to purchase anything outside the compound.”34 Finally, on August 16, 1914, a barracks revolt led by lieutenant colonels Fortunato Tenorio and Arnulfo Cervantes toppled him from power, following Vazquez’s refusal to accede to the troops’ request for their long delayed pay. The coup also coincided with the formal end of Huertista rule in the rest of Mexico.35

In late December 1914, Baltazar Avilés, was forced to flee to the U.S. after his troops rebelled in Ensenada and Tijuana. He had been designated jefe político by general Francisco Villa and was the leader of the revolutionary Convention’s forces in northern Mexico. As a result, Colonel Estéban Cantú, head of the garrison at Mexicali, gained control over the region. Venustiano Carranza, following his triumph over the forces of Villa and other Conventionist leaders, recognized Cantú as governor of the Distrito Norte. Cantú, however, attempted to maintain an autonomous control over the region until he was deposed by President Adolfo de la Huerta on August 20, 1920.36

Under Cantú, the vice industry became firmly rooted and flourished in the region. On July 15, 1915 the Distrito government issued a gaming permit to Antonio Elosúa, a Mexican mining empresario and brother-in-law of ex-president Francisco I. Madero. The Elosúa gaming permit came to serve as the standard model for those purchased by U.S. investors. That same day, Elosúa inaugurated the Feria Típica, or Tijuana Fair, which offered a variety of forms of entertainment which were outlawed at that time in the U.S.: cockfights, boxing, gambling, races, bullfights and bullbaits. In September 1916, the Fair also added prizefighting to its program. This was especially attractive to California fight fans, since prizefighting had been outlawed in the state the previous year. In 1916 Elosúa also inaugurated the Monte Carlo casino.37

In the meantime, U.S. promoters had endeavored to acquire a concession from the Mexican government for the establishment of a race track in Tijuana. The Lower California Jockey Club, with Texans Clinton C. Tucker, Forest E. White, W.E. Tobias and H.J. Moore, and Arthur Houser, a resident of Mexico, as financial backers, initiated construction of track facilities in the spring of 1915. At this time Tijuana had a population of approximately 1,000.38 At the end of November, California gambling promoters James W. “Sunny Jim” Coffroth and Baron H. Long, with financial backing from the Spreckels Companies, took over the Lower California Jockey Club. The race track opened on New Year’s Day 1916 to a great fanfare of publicity, with thousands of U.S. visitors attending the inauguration.39 The San Diego and South Eastern Railroad greatly facilitated transportation for the crowds by constructing a branch line from San Diego to stations in downtown Tijuana and at the race track itself. It was completed one week before the official opening of the racetrack. As the opening day approached, the railway company also added an express train that ran twice daily, 30 minutes to the border.40

The opening of the track marked the first great twentieth century “tourist rush” to Tijuana. Together with its closest competitor, Elosúa’s Tijuana Fair, and bullfights, the track continued to attract crowds to the border town. Over the next two years, the popularity of Tijuana as a tourist destination increased steadily. The tourist attractions also stimulated the town’s population growth and overall economic development.41

As a result of its popularity, as well as the fact that race track betting had been prohibited in California, the Tijuana race course became the focus of criticism from U.S. moral reformers. San Diego city authorities banned attempts to advertise Tijuana races in the downtown area. Some newspapers, particularly the Los Angeles Morning Tribune, believed that the crowds were drawn away from the San Diego Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916 by the “racetrack gambling hell at Tijuana.” In a series of articles on Tijuana, the Morning Tribune also included a supposedly special investigative report, which revealed the profound state of moral depravation there, as well as rampant prostitution. The mayor of Los Angeles announced to the press that he had wired president Woodrow Wilson to request that the border with Mexico be closed. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union made a similar request to the president and to Mayor Edwin M. Capps of San Diego.42

Support for “cleaning up” Tijuana came from Cantú as well as from Elosúa, the local businessman. The two men proceeded to round up San Diego bunco men (con artists) and other assorted riffraff from the streets of Tijuana and deport them from the country. Tijuana city officials claimed that their town was “as free from vice as any in the United States.”43 Although Cantú campaigned to rid the Distrito Norte of its more lawless elements, his control over the region’s vice industry provided him income that supplemented his other sources, such as taxes from the production of cotton in the Mexicali Valley. License fees for gambling halls provided income for both Cantú and the local government that totaled almost $300,000 per month, particularly the American-owned Tecolote Club’s cantinas and brothels in Mexicali.44 Cantú also earned a considerable, although undetermined, amount of money from another source: the smuggling of opium, opiates, and cocaine to the U.S. It was a common medical practice at that time to administer opium or one of its alkaloids —mainly morphine— as treatment for a number of ills. Cases of morphine addiction increased among U.S. military men who fought in Europe during World War I. Draft dodgers also tended to become self-induced addicts as a way of escaping military service, as did veterans as a result of medication for treatment of wounds. These groups did not include all addicts or those who had formed a drug habit. Many women took drugs to treat bodily discomforts or used them as an alternative to alcohol. Doctors, gamblers, and prostitutes took drugs for insomnia or because they were often available to them. Drug use was also prevalent among certain ethnic groups, such as the Chinese. None of the income Cantú derived from these “vice” activities was forwarded to the federal treasury in Mexico City.45

For U.S. investors, Cantú’s regime constituted a kind of protective buffer zone between their homeland and the Mexican mainland under the more strict and moralist control of the Carrancistas.46 As a result, the U.S. vice entrepreneurs were able to increase and strengthen their operations in the region. By 1917, the Allen, Beyer, and Withington associates had extended their control over Tijuana’s vice industry to include the town’s finest casinos and cantinas. The group expanded the Tivoli Bar, built the Foreign Club, and also bought out Elosúa’s holdings. In 1920, the group, in conjunction with one-time rival Coffroth, added the Sunset Inn to the Monte Carlo casino. The new development complemented the race track and greatly added to its financial potential.47

By 1920, the vice industry had become firmly established in Tijuana and other border communities. Its development was continued on a greater scale during the period from 1913-1920, which had received a significant boost during the brief period of Magonista rule in Tijuana. Its establishment and operation was permitted mainly because it proved lucrative for governing officials, both the jefes políticos and the Distrito Norte’s military governors. The district generated much needed tourist revenue and stimulated the local economy in general. Not all the vice industry entrepreneurs were foreign; some were Mexican and local Mexican businessmen also benefited from the establishment and growth of this sector. Although governor Cantú made some attempts to rid the Distrito of its most lawless elements during the early period of his administration, he also found the continued growth of the vice industry under his control profitable both for himself and the Distrito’s economy.

Prohibition and the Golden Age of Tijuana’s Vice Industry


Two days prior to the U.S. entry into World War I (April 6, 1917), Congress decided to take action on a resolution put forward by the Anti-Saloon League of America in favor of the prohibition of commercial liquor traffic. Congress outlawed home and “moonshine” manufacture as well. Acting on this initiative, Congress ratified the Eighteenth Amendment, which came into effect as of January 17, 1920. It ushered in what the Anti-Saloon League hoped would be “an era of clear thinking and clean living.”48 An enforcement law, popularly known as the Volstead Act, had already been passed by Congress at the end of October 1919. Even as this legislation was implemented, however, concerns arose among those agencies charged with its enforcement over the proliferation of drinking establishments in the Mexican border region.49

The Volstead Act, which remained in effect until its repeal in 1933, provided a substantial boost to Tijuana’s development. Like other major cities along the Mexican side of the border, such as Ciudad Juarez, it became a focal point for those dealing in the liquor traffic, as well as those consuming its products. Over a four year period, from 1920-1924, the approximately 30 cantinas that existed in Tijuana at the beginning of Prohibition doubled in number. There was a corresponding boom in the establishment of support industries, such as breweries, distillery plants, and wineries. Prohibition also stimulated the growth of the rural economy, since it provided incentives for farmers in the Tijuana and Mexicali regions to sell fruit and grain crops for the production of alcoholic beverages.50 The number of foreign entrepreneurs who opened establishments to cater to the torrent of Americans crossing the line also greatly increased and included, among a host of other names, that of Jack Johnson, the famed heavyweight boxer.51

The U.S. government fretted considerably over the fact that the Mexican border towns constituted a weak point in its efforts to enforce Prohibition. However, apart from attempting to intercept contraband shipments of liquor from Mexico or reducing the border stations’ hours of operation, its options were limited to tightening up restrictions. The moral reform crusade in California and other states could do little to stem the tide of Americans heading south. By this time, progressivism had lost a lot of its steam and was on the road to extinction.52

What moral reformers failed to discern was that many of the visitors to San Diego and other destinations in the Southwest also wanted to see something of the region’s more exciting and “wilder” side, which meant, of course, the vice establishments in Tijuana and other Mexican border towns. “All who visit San Diego must ‘do’ Tia Juana,” as Stephen Chalmers explained in a New York Times article written at the onset of the Prohibition boom in Tijuana. “The bridge that crosses [the Río Tijuana] into Mexico,” said Chalmers, “is a rickety, water-worn, wooden thing. When you hit the other side…you forget yourself in what strikes you at first as a recrudescence of a Bret Hart mining camp or a Wild West main street scene in the movies, with a dash of Coney Island thrown in.”53

The governorship of General Abelardo L. Rodríguez (1923-1929) ushered in a truly “golden age” for Tijuana’s vice industry. Rodríguez capitalized on the lucrative opportunities afforded by promoting the development of the vice industry in Tijuana and the Distrito Norte in general in order to create a strong economic base for the region. In 1921, the Distrito Norte possessed only 23,537 inhabitants.54 For many decades the region’s population had remained too small to attract investment by Mexican businessmen and manufacturers. Governor Rodríguez viewed the great growth in liquor establishments and allied businesses in the Mexican border towns as a way of furthering the Distrito’s financial autonomy and the development of its economy.55

Taxes from the regional liquor businesses helped the Distrito government to pay for its own costs of internal administration and public works, thereby reducing its dependence on federal funding. The economic boom helped to promote the development of other types of industry, such as flour mills and despepitadoras, or cottonseed processing plants. In November 1927, an aircraft factory, the Compañía Aérea de Construcción y Transportes, was established in Tijuana.56 The Rodríguez government also carried out numerous public works projects in the region, including the building of a theatre and public library in Mexicali.57

Rodríguez had personal reasons for promoting the vice industry in the Distrito Norte. As in the case of his predecessors, he also profited from the industry himself as a major partner of U.S. entrepreneurs involved in these activities. Several Tijuana citizens and Mexican residents in California wrote formal complaints to president Alvaro Obregón, asserting that Rodríguez had contradicted the moral reform policy proclaimed by the Sonoran ruling clique that had come into power following the overthrow of Carranza in 1920. They charged that Rodríguez had granted a gambling monopoly to Withington and his associates. They also stated that the governor had accepted bribes in exchange for overlooking certain vice activities and had reopened several casinos that had been closed due to irregularities in their operation.58

In his various development projects, including that of the vice industry, Rodríguez enjoyed a considerable measure of autonomy, as well as the personal backing of president Obregón. Rodríguez had served as an official under Obregón’s command during the revolutionary period from 1913-1920. During that time, he lent the federal cause $900,000 as well as another $133,000 for the purchase of two gunboats to patrol the coastal waters off Baja California, during the revolt led by Adolfo de la Huerta against Obregón from 1923-1924.59 Obregón overlooked the complaints against Rodríguez, acknowledging that the matter would be investigated and dealt with through the regular channels. On March 6, 1924, the U.S. government made a limited concession to moral protest movements in California by shutting down the border stations at 9:00 P.M., three hours earlier than the former midnight closing hour. Obregón reciprocated by ordering Rodríguez to correct any obvious abuses of moral policy as soon as possible, especially in connection with illegal gambling.60

Rodríguez’s major contribution towards the promotion of Tijuana’s vice industry occurred in connection with the construction of the famed Agua Caliente casino. In 1928 the company of Americans Wirt G. Bowman, Baron Long, and James N. Crofton was formed in Mexicali for the purpose of building a tourist complex in the vicinity of the Agua Caliente hot springs. The site selected belonged to governor Rodríguez, who had paid Alberto Arguello $35,000 for the land. The property purchased constituted a portion of the Tia Juana ranchlands that still belonged to the Arguello family. Alberto Arguello also leased the hot springs to the Agua Caliente investor group of which Rodríguez was a major stock holder. In addition, the Agua Caliente company gave the contract for the construction to Fernando L. Rodríguez, governor Rodríguez’s brother and one of Baron Long’s business associates.61

The Agua Caliente resort cost approximately $10,000,000, an enormous sum of money for that period. The first stage of the project comprised a 500 room hotel, casino, health spa, and café, inaugurated on June 23, 1928. The second stage consisted of an “olympic size” swimming pool, health clinics, 18 hole golf course, putting course, horse racing and greyhound race tracks, gardens and tropical aviary, bungalows, laundry, and workshop areas completed at the end of December 1929. The resort also had its own private radio station and airport facility.62

The Agua Caliente race track regularly attracted crowds averaging 3,500 people, as horse race betting was still outlawed in California. Economic rivalry between the two Californias over this important source of sports revenue soon led to the lifting of this prohibition. The Santa Anita race track, inaugurated in the Los Angeles area on December 25, 1934, offered prizes double in size to those of Agua Caliente. This resulted in a reduced attendance at the latter facility.63

In downtown Tijuana, other casinos operated on Avenida Revolución, the principal thoroughfare. Among the most prominent were the Tivoli Bar, Foreign Club and Monte Carlo, owned and operated by the border barons, and the Molino Rojo, owned by Soo Yasuhara. Like their later Las Vegas counterparts, all of these establishments offered a kind of variety theatre as part of their entertainment fare.64

The growth and concentration of economic power in the hands of a relatively limited number of foreign casino syndicate owners, the “border barons” as the press called them, drew criticism from the public on both sides of the border. Many Americans referred to them as unpatriotic and unworthy citizens for conducting activities in Mexico that were beyond the pale of the law in their own countries. Americans also criticized them for drawing business away from Los Angeles and other areas during the Depression. The latter resented such criticisms. When San Diego mayor Harry C. Clark delivered a speech opposing negotiations between the U.S. and Mexico for a more open border, Bowman, president of the Agua Caliente Corporation, protested against the former’s use of the term “renegade Americans” to refer to American resort and other business owners in Mexico. In his reply to the mayor’s remarks, Bowman claimed that he paid taxes on $100,000 of property in San Diego County and $500,000 of property in Arizona. He also pointed out that he was a director in the San Diego Chamber of Commerce as well as a strong financial supporter of its projects.65

Bowman and his partners, as well as the other U.S. investors in Mexico for whom he spoke, saw themselves as transnational businessmen who contributed to the development of urban communities on both sides of the border. On the one hand, the border barons’ business operations provided Mexican residents of Tijuana and other Baja Californians with jobs and served as the driving force in the region’s economy. They also helped both Tijuana and San Diego to survive the Depression’s harsh, early years. Nevertheless, the border barons and their fellow investors received the lion’s share of the vice industry profits, which were taken out of Mexico.66

Resentment of local Mexican entrepreneurs against the casinos, particularly those owned by Americans, increased steadily during the period. Mexican business competitors complained that the border barons possessed a monopoly over gambling operations in the region and tried to limit or exclude competition.67 With more than a touch of envy, they viewed the Agua Caliente casino resort as a spoiled child of the government, enjoying special privileges, such as being exempt from Tijuana’s midnight gambling curfew. Not only did Agua Caliente attract most of the town’s visitors from the outside, but it also provided them first-class lodging, food and liquor at prices below those prevailing in the region. Given such circumstances, other local businessmen believed they were at a considerable disadvantage as competitors.68

Another source of local opposition to the casinos grew out of the fact that many of the personnel employed were Americans. The latter also held the top-paying and more skilled jobs. Mexican resentment against this preferential labor practice smouldered. On September 12, 1923, police shut down the Tivoli gaming house following complaints over the management’s refusal to employ an equal number of Americans and Mexicans. A mob led by Ricardo Romandía, one of the founding leaders of the Liga Nacionalista Obrera, later stormed the casino “overturning gaming tables with the ounces of gold, pesos, tostones (50 centavo pieces) and quarters tumbling on to the floor.” Although the Rodríguez government attempted to punish the leaders of the attack, public sympathy lay with the rioters.69 “In order to achieve a necessary and just balance between foreign and native laborers,” decreed the Distrito Norte’s Junta de Conciliación y Arbitraje on May 21, 1925, “the proportion of nationals will not be less than 50 per cent of the total group of workers employed by each company.”70 The local unions also pressured casino owners to hire more Mexicans. Those hired, however, had to be able to speak English and have good educational qualifications. By the mid-1930’s, the disproportion between foreign and national workers had been substantially reduced, with Mexicans forming some 80 to 90 per cent of all casino personnel.71

Despite this fact, the majority of Mexican locals were observers, rather than participators in Tijuana’s glittering “high life”. Although the casinos’ visitors included persons from a variety of backgrounds, including, according to one writer, “some Depression-worn San Diegans with a few bucks in their pockets,”72 most belonged to the wealthier groups in U.S. society. Agua Caliente’s Salón de Oro (Gold Room) was “reserved” almost exclusively for a group that included business tycoons, Hollywood stars and even gangsters such as Al Capone. Casino workers received in many cases higher wages than workers in other local establishments, as well as tips that were often generous. However, since the major part of the casino profits were taken out of the country, very little of the wealth they produced found its way into the pockets of Tijuana’s laboring population. This economic chasm between the local populace and the groups of persons that visited the casinos was heightened by the high unemployment, producing hunger and misery during the Depression. On a visit to Tijuana in 1931, the newly appointed governor Carlos Trejo y Lerdo de Tejada described it as “a forlorn city of dirty, wooden shacks — the horse stables at the race track, by comparison, are luxurious lodgings.”73

The election of Lazaro Cardenas as president in July 1934 brought into power in Mexico a moralist regime that was prepared to adopt much stronger measures than its predecessors to stop the vice industry operating on national soil. In his radio broadcast to the nation on January 1, 1935, one month after taking office, Cardenas promised that his government would “pay special attention to exercising vigilance against vices and gaming houses prohibited by law.” Not only would “new taxes be placed on the importation, exportation, sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages,” but the administration would also begin a “systematic struggle against alcoholism which would be outlined in the program to be followed by other government sectors.”74 That same day, the president ordered the closure of all gaming houses in the country.75 The Cardenas measures stemmed from the president’s own personal character and moral preferences. It was also the result of the growth of a moralist movement of its own in Mexico, that had been present to a certain extent during the Porfiriato and which came to the forefront nationally, at least at the official level, with the coming to power of Carranza in 1917. This was true especially after the Sonoran triumvirate, Adolfo de la Huerta, Alvaro Obregón and Plutarco Elías Calles, took over the reins of government in the 1920s.76

It was also due to the inauguration of a more nationalist agenda in economic and other matters during the Cardenas regime. The government was determined to show foreign powers and business interests that Mexico was in charge of her own affairs. The border vice industries had long been profiled by critics in both Mexico and the U.S. as a flagrant example of foreign entrepreneurs and capitalists carrying on and furthering their interests with a more or less carte blanche. They were shielded from the attempts of the governments of both countries to control or curtail their activities.77

Two days following Cardenas’s revocation of Tijuana’s gambling permits on July 19, 1935, Agua Caliente casino, the hipódromo, the Foreign Club, and other gambling operations were closed (July 21), leaving approximately 5,000 Mexicans without jobs. The casinos’ closure also resulted in a considerable decline in cross-border tourists.78 Although delegations made up of the region’s union representatives and some of its principal business leaders journeyed to the capital in an effort to convince Cardenas to revoke this decision, such attempts ultimately failed. Threats by local labor unions to blockade the border against tourist traffic going into Tijuana were also unsuccessful. Although the unions had criticized the gambling operations in the past, on this occasion they threw their weight into this last-ditch attempt on the part of the casino workers to retain their jobs.79

The Cardenas measure eliminated only one part of Tijuana’s vice industry, the casinos, but did not affect the racetrack and the state lottery, both of which were forms of gambling. It also did not seriously affect other areas of the industry, such as the bars, cabarets, brothels, and the drug trade. Many Mexican businessmen in Tijuana were not involved in gambling operations, and the sale of liquor was not prohibited by the government decree. Liquor salesman like Miguel Gonzalez, who had made a fortune in the liquor trade and property investment, were opposed to gambling on principle and did not lament the casino closures. Nevertheless, as the liquor business and those of the casinos and brothels were interlinked, the closures doubtless affected the other sectors of the vice industry as a whole. In addition, the “golden age” of the liquor trade had already ended with the repeal of Prohibition in the U.S., thus reducing considerably profits from that source.80

Although the casino closures constituted a considerable financial loss to the American property owners, the majority accepted the decision without a struggle and returned to the U.S. A few, such as James Crofton, remained in Tijuana. Crofton resisted the dictates of the casino closure until his expulsion from the country in 1937. That year, the Hollywood movie magnate Joseph M. Schenck reopened the Hipódromo, although other forms of gambling remained illegal.81 The Agua Caliente casino was reopened on May 8, 1937 as a result of a request from the employees’ union for the purpose of holding raffles for different kinds of objects, games of bolos, and billiards and lotteries. Such activities, however, appealed unsuccessfully to those persons accustomed to Agua Caliente in former days. The casino was closed again the following July. On December 17, the government expropriated the installations and turned them over to the Secretaría de Educación Pública.82 Other casinos in the country that had been closed awaited a similar fate. In his message to the nation on December 9, 1938, Cardenas promised his government would “continue to turn centers of gambling and vice into schools for laborers and hospitals for the sick,” similar to the redistribution of large landed estates in various regions of the country to benefit the peasantry.83


The initial development of Tijuana’s vice industry near the end of the Porfiriato coincided with the Progressive moral reform movement in California and other regions of the U.S. The campaigns waged against saloons, gambling, prostitution, and drugs obliged businessmen engaged in such activities either to cease their operations or relocate elsewhere. Many turned to Tijuana and other Mexican border towns as a viable alternative.

With more money at their disposal, as well as the use of shrewd and aggressive business tactics, some of the U.S. entrepreneurs who established businesses in the Tijuana area, such as Coffroth, Bowman, Crofton, Long, and Withington, built up an almost monopolistic control over the town’s vice industry. These men brought needed investments to the region and their businesses were highly profitable. Mexican authorities actively encouraged them instead of trying to suppress these activities. Many of the local Mexicans also were engaged in such operations, while those who dedicated themselves to other types of businesses made money as a result of the prosperity generated by the vice industry. Government officials, including the jefes políticos and governors, profited additionally from these activities. They either invested in the industries personally or received money through the manipulation of tax revenue from the vice establishments, as well as granting permits to those who opened such businesses.

In time, opposition grew against the U.S. vice entrepreneurs especially with regard to those who managed the casinos. Many Mexican businessmen felt, as their counterparts had in previous periods, that their governments, both at the regional and national levels, favored the foreigners through special concessions and treatment. In the case of the casinos in particular, some Mexicans felt squeezed out of this sector due to the refusal of U.S. investors to concede any share of the profits.

Cardenas’s closure of the casinos in Mexico constituted a severe blow to Tijuana’s vice industry, but only affected some vice industries. Tijuana’s bars and houses of prostitution continued to flourish throughout the forties and fifties. Beginning in the early sixties, as a result of the Programa Nacional Fronterizo (PRONAF) directed at “brightening up” Mexico’s border areas, Tijuana encouraged family tourism and the growth of the maquila as an important and additional economic sector. Much of the old Tijuana was finally relegated to history as a chapter in the region’s legacy.

Try as it might, however, Tijuana was never quite able to shake off the negative image of being a center for “vice” and a wild, dissolute border town. As the debate continues over the convenience of permitting casinos to operate in Mexico, the image of the older Tijuana has once again been brought to the forefront of the never ending discussion over the future of the city and the role it might play in the present century.



1. Donald Chaput, William M. Mason, and David Zarate Loperena, Modest Fortunes: Mining in Northern Baja California, (Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 1992), 33, 92-102, 137-151.

2. William E. Smythe, History of San Diego, 1542-1908, (San Diego: The History Company, 1908), 413- 452; Glenn S. Dumke, The Boom of the Eighties in Southern California, (San Marino, Cal.: The Huntington Library, 1944), 17-27, 136-142.

3. Walter Gifford Smith, The Story of San Diego, (San Diego: City Publishing Company, 1892), 153-154.

4. San Diego Union, August 22, October 1, 1887 and January 1, 1888; Coronado Evening Mercury, October 3, 1887.

5. The Arguello ranch comprised a substantial portion of the Tijuana Valley and at one point even extended to San Clemente, California. Jesús Ortiz Figueroa, “Evolución de la propiedad en el Rancho de Tijuana, 1829-1900,” in David Piñera Ramírez and Jesús Ortiz Figueroa, coords., Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989: edición conmemorativa del centenario de su fundación, 2 vols. (Tijuana: Centro de Investigaciones Históricas UNAM-UABC/Gobierno del Estado de Baja California/XII Ayuntamiento de Tijuana, 1989), II:84-85.

6. “Tijuana on January 19, 1886,” excerpt from the diary of Lois Carle concerning her visit to brother Irving Carle, proprietor of the Tijuana Hot Springs Hotel, Vertical File No. 4 (Agua Caliente), San Diego Historical Society, San Diego, California (hereafter cited as SDHC); Coronado Evening Mercury, January 1, 1887; San Diego Daily Bee, October 26, 1887.

7. San Diego Union, August 1, 1888; Otay Press, June 13, 1889.

8. San Diego Daily Bee, September 6, 18, 1887; San Diego Sun, August 3, 1888; San Diego Union, August 6, 1888.

9. Settlement of the will left by Arguello’s widow, doña Pilar Ortega, July 12, 1889, in Ortiz Figueroa, “Evolución,” 86-87; Measurement and evaluation of the Tijuana predio (lands), undertaken by engineer Ricardo Orozco, 1889; Archivo General de la Nacion, México, D.F. (hereafter cited as AGNM), Fondo: Dirección General del Gobierno, 2.382(30)24554, tomo II, caja 70, exp. 20/1; in Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (hereafter cited as IIH/UABC), caja 27, exp. 35, pp. 31-33.

10. Richard F. Pourade, The Glory Years: The Booms and Busts in the Land of the Sundown Sea, (San Diego: The Union-Tribune Publishing Company, 1964), 216.

11. Dumke, Boom 260-271; Ileana Gil Durán, “Tijuana y Tia Juana, dos pueblos fronterizos,” in Piñera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, II:65-66.

12. Smythe, History, 503-505, 507-508, 701.

13. Smythe, History, 529-534; Robert M. Hanft, San Diego & Arizona: The Impossible Railroad, (Glendale, Cal.: Trans-Anglo Books, 1984), 9-78.

14. San Diego Union, May 3 and 6, 1896; September 17, 1898. For Tijuana’s population, see Piñera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, I:334.

15. Dictamen sobre la vigencia del Reglamento de Juego expedido en 1907 en el Territorio Norte de Baja California; AGNM, Fondo: Dirección General de Gobierno, Serie 2.382(30)24554, tomo I, caja 70, exp. 19/8; in IIH/UABC, caja 26, exp. 40.

16. David Piñera Ramírez and Antonio Padilla Corona, comps., Documentos para la historia de Tijuana, (Tijuana: Universidad Autónoma de Baja California/Sociedad de Historia de Tijuana, 1995), 136-147.

17. San Diego Union, January 1, 1910.

18. George E. Mowry, The California Progressives, (Chicago: Quadrangle Paperbacks, 1963), 38-56, 99-100, 294; Martin J. Schiesl, “Progressive Reform in Los Angeles under Mayor Alexander, 1909-1913,” California Historical Quarterly, 44 (Spring 1975): 40-44.

19. Kevin Starr, Inventing the Dream: California Through the Progressive Era, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 244-245.

20. George J. Sánchez, Becoming Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 90-96.

21. Philip Wayne Powell, Tree of Hate: Propaganda and Prejudices Affecting United States Relations with the Hispanic World, (New York: Basic Books, 1971), 118; Raymundo A. Paredes, “The Origins of Anti-Mexican Sentiment in the United States,” The New Scholar, 6 (1977): 139-165.

22. San Diego Sun, July 29, 1904; See also San Francisco Chronicle, June 28, 1903 and September 6, 1903.

23. Celso Vega, jefe político of the Distrito Norte, Baja California, to Ramón Corral, Secretario de Gobernación, August 18, 1904, AGNM, Fondo: Gobernación, vol. 775, sección s/s, exp. 1; in IIH/UABC, caja 36, exp. 37; Request sent to president Díaz by Thomas Cagswell, in the name of several organizations and residents of San Diego, for the outlawing of bullfights in Tijuana, September 22, 1905, Universidad Iberoamericana, México, D.F., Fondo: Archivo Porfirio Díaz, legajo XXX, doc. 12031; in IIH/UABC, caja 11, exp. 37.

24. Mowry, California, 81; James M. Mohr, “Tijuana: A Reform Escape Hatch,” SDHC, Classification No. TMS MOH, p. 1.

25. Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores to the Secretaría de Gobernación, together with a note from the Mexican consul in San Diego regarding the permits granted for the establishment of casinos and a race track in Tijuana, April 20, 1909, in Piñera Ramírez and Padilla Corona, Documentos, 148-149.

26. Letter from C.W. “Melbourne” Hopkins to a friend, James Dunn, June 1, 1911, in Revolutions in Mexico: Hearing Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 62nd. Congress, 2nd. Session, (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1913), 197. See also San Diego Sun, May 9, 1911; San Diego Union, May 10, 14, 15, 29, 1911; San Diego Evening Tribune, May 15, 1911; Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1912.

27. Exchange of correspondence between the U.S. Department of State and the Mexican Embassy in Washington, and between the Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, concerning the defense of the Colorado River delta irrigation works in Mexico, February 12 to June 1, 1911, in U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: 1911 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1912), 556-565; Statements of Dudley L. Robinson, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, and A.I. McCormick, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California, in Revolutions, 233.

28. Vincent Z. C. de Baca (Cabeza de Vaca), “Moral Renovation of the Californias: Tijuana’s Political and Economic Role in American-Mexican Relations, 1920-1935,” (Ph.D. diss., University of California, San Diego, 1991), 41-42.

29. P.O. de Subrío, Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, June 12, 1911, in Archivo Histórico “Genaro Estrada,” Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores, México, D.F., exp. 9-9-18; San Diego Union, June 1, 3, 1911; Los Angeles Times, June 7, 1912.

30. San Diego Sun, June 2-6, 1911; San Diego Union, May 30; June 2-6, 8, 11, 24, 27, 1911.

31. San Diego Union, November 12, 13, 1912; Elizabeth C. MacPhail, “When the Red Lights Went Out in San Diego: The Little Known Story of San Diego’s “Restricted” District,” Journal of San Diego History, 20 (Spring 1974): 15-20; Eric Michael Schantz, “All Night at the Owl: The Social and Political Relations of Mexicali’s Red Light District,” Journal of the Southwest, 43 (Winter 2001): 554. For biographical information on Allen, Beyer and Withington, see “Death Ends Colorful Life of Border Pleasure Prince,” San Diego Union, October 24, 1925; “Frank B. Beyer, Colorful Figure of Border, Dies at Ranch Home,” San Diego Union, February 16, 1931; Max Miller, “Legendary Figures of Gambling Days Recalled by [Linn] Platner,” San Diego Tribune-Sun, December 15, 1948, A-33.

32. David Zarate and others to the Secretaría de Gobernación, July 15, 1912; together with documents from C.L. Castro, municipal treasurer of Ensenada, concerning the quotas charged to prostitutes, as well as accounts for liquor and tobacco sales in the District, public amusements, etc., July 11, 13, 1912; AGNM, Fondo: Período Revolucionario, caja 20, exp. 6; in IIH/UABC, caja 2, exp. 5.

33. Gordillo Escudero to the Secretaría de Gobernación, June 26, 1912, AGNM, Fondo: Gobernación, 1911-12, s/s, caja 917, exp. 1/s; in IIH/UABC, 1912.82, caja 46, exp. 11; David Zarate, municipal president of Ensenada, to Francisco Portillo, agent sent by the Secretaría de Gobernación to the Distrito Norte, October 22, 1912, AGNM, Fondo: Período Revolucionario, caja 54, exp. 85; in IIH/UABC, caja 3, exp. 31.

34. Joaquín de la Cueva, La Baja California: paginas de historia contemporánea, (San Diego: Arts & Crafts Press, 1918), 7.

35. David Zarate, jefe político interino (interin), to the Secretaría de Gobernación, August 1914, AGNM, Fondo: Gobernación, v. 501, sección 1a., exp. 26; in IIH/UABC, caja 49, exp. 25; U.S. consul Guyant in Ensenada to the Department of State, January 2, 13, 21, 1914, in U.S. Department of State, Record Group 59, file 812.00, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Mexico, 1910-1929 (Microcopy 274), National Archives and Records Service, Washington, D.C. (hereafter cited as NA/RG 59, 812.00), documents 10399, 10625, 10629.

36. Joseph Richard Werne, “Esteban Cantú y la soberanía mexicana en Baja California,” Historia Mexicana, 30 (July-September 1980): 6-7.

37. San Diego Union, August 6, 27 and September 10, 1916; January 1 and July 1, 1917.

38. San Diego Union, April 16, 22, 29, 1915.

39. San Diego Union, January 2, 1916. For biographical information on Coffroth and Long, see “Baron Long: The Man and the Legend” (1988), in SDHC, Classification No.: Institute 1988/4/4; and Roberta Ridgely, “The Man Who Built Tijuana: Part I,” San Diego Magazine, 18 (January 1966): 60-61, 96-97.

40. San Diego Union, December 4, 11, 21, 28, 31, 1915 and January 2, 1916.

41. San Diego Union, January 1, 1917; U.S. Grant IV, “A Sojourn in Baja California, 1915,” Southern California Quarterly, 45 (June 1963): 128.

42. C. de Baca, “Moral Renovation,” 50-51; Mohr, “Tijuana,” 2-5.

43. Quoted in San Diego Union, January 1, 1917; See also San Diego Union, April 28, 29, 1915 and June 10, 16, 17, 1916.

44. James A. Sandos, “Northern Separation during the Mexican Revolution: An Inquiry into the Role of Drug Trafficking, 1910-1920,” The Americas, 41 (October 1984): 209; Werne, “Cantú,” 14-16.

45. Werne, “Cantú,” 7, 17-18, 29; Sandos, “Northern,” 192-203.

46. Henry Carr, “The Kingdom of Cantú,” Sunset Magazine, 38 (April 1917): 33-34, 65-67; Clair Kenamore, “The Principality of Cantú,” The Bookman, 46 (September 1917-February 1918): 23-27; Sandos, “Northern,” 209-210.

47. Ridgely, “Man Who Built Tijuana, Part III” (December 1966): 114 and Part IV (May 1967): 79-80; John A. Price, Tijuana: Urbanization in a Border Culture, (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 1973), 50-51; C. de Vaca, “Moral Renovation,” 55.

48. Cited in Kenneth Allsopp, The Bootleggers: The Story of Chicago’s Prohibition Era, (New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1968), 29.

49. James H. Timberlake, Prohibition and the Progressive Movement, 1900-1920, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1963), 173-183; Sandos, “Northern,” 209.

50. T.D. Proffitt III, Tijuana: The History of a Mexican Metropolis, (San Diego: San Diego State University Press, 1994), 107.

51. Oral interview with Leonard Rottman, June 18, 1972, in SDHC, Classification no. OH, pp. 8-9; Conrado Acevedo Cardenas, David Piñera Ramírez and Jesús Ortiz Figueroa, “Semblanza de Tijuana, 1915-1930,” in Piñera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, I:98-99.

52. Mowry, California, 274-298.

53. Stephen Chalmers, “The Drought and Tijuana,” New York Times, June 6, 1920.

54. Piñera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, I:334.

55. Abelardo L. Rodríguez, Autobiografía, (México: Novaro Editores, 1962), 162.

56. Propuesta del gobernador Abelardo L. Rodríguez para el establecimiento de una fábrica de aeroplanes en Tijuana, 1928; AGNM, Fondo: Obregón-Calles, exp. 713-B-19; in IIH/UABC, caja 8, exp. 7; Abelardo L. Rodríguez, Memoria administrativa del gobierno del Distrito Norte de la Baja California, 1924-1927, (1928; reprint, México: Secretaría de Educación Pública/Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, 1993), 292-327; Rodríguez, Autobiografía, 136-137.

57. Rodríguez, Memoria, 211-249.

58. Complaint sent by R. Roman, J. Ramírez, G. Velasco and other Tijuana citizens to president Obregón concerning the operation by Allen, Beyer and Withington of casinos registered as “social clubs”, November 11, 1923 and reply, November 15, 1923, AGNM, Fondo: Obregón-Calles, exp. 425-T-7/33; in IIH/UABC, caja 3, exp. 45; Petition from Miguel Gonzalez, agent for the Compañía Comercial de la Baja California, requesting the closure of the casinos Sunset Inn and Monte Carlo, April 11, 1924, AGNM, Fondo: Obregón-Calles, exp. 425-T-7/9; in IIH/UABC, caja 3, exp. 21.

59. Pablo L. Martínez, Historia de Baja California, (La Paz, B.C.S.: Patronato del Estudiante Sudcaliforniano, Dirección Estatal de Educación/Consejo Editorial del Gobierno del Estado de B.C.S., Secretaría de Bienestar Social, 1991), 542.

60. On February 17, 1926, as a result of the Peteet family suicide, following a visit to Tijuana that ended in the daughters’ rape, the border was closed between 6:00 P.M. and 8:00 A.M. The curfew remained in effect until 1933, when president Roosevelt lifted it as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. San Diego Union, February 7, 18, 1926; New York Times, February 18, 21, 1926.

61. Alejandro F. Lugo, Jr., “El Casino de Agua Caliente” and interview with Wayne McAllister, architect for the Agua Caliente tourist resort complex, conducted by Antonio Padilla Corona, 1983, in Piñera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, I:114-115, 118.

62. “Agua Caliente Hotel and Casino in Old Mexico,” San Diego Magazine (May-June 1929): 9; San Diego Union, June 24, 1930 and January 1, 1931; Emma Mellado, “The Rise, Life and Fall of the Agua Caliente Resort, 1928-1938,” SDHC, Classification no.: Institute 1980/1/5, 2, 4-5, 9-11; Interview with Wayne McAllister, 118-121.

63. Interview with Wayne McAllister, 120-121; Jay Posner, “Caliente: Once “Número Uno”,” San Diego Union, July 15, 1989, A-7.

64. Jorge Soto Fuentes, La mesa, (Tijuana: Editorial Acción Cultural y Educativa de Baja California, 1976), 96-119; Lugo, “Casino de Agua Caliente” and “Testimonio de personas que trabajaron en Agua Caliente,” in Ortiz Figueroa and Piñera Ramírez, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, I:114-128.

65. San Diego Sun, June 11, 1929.

66. Interview with Francisco M. Rodríguez, Tijuana labor leader, conducted by Raúl Rodríguez, 1978, in Piñera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, I:123; C. de Vaca, “Moral Renovation,” 131.

67. Salvador Gutiérrez to president Pascual Ortiz Rubio, December 18, 1931, AGNM, Fondo: Pascual Ortiz Rubio, vol. 1931, exp. 8/8630; in IIH/UABC, caja 2, exp. 30.

68. Interview with Wayne McAllister, 120; Roberta Ridgely, “When Caliente Was Queen of Spas,” San Diego Magazine, 18 (July 1966): 140, 142; Arthur Ribbel, “Agua Caliente Heyday,” San Diego Union, March 28, 1982, G-2.

69. San Diego Union, September 13, 1923; Francisco M. Rodríguez, Baco y Birjan: una historia sangrante y dolorosa, de lo que fué, y lo que es Tijuana, (Tijuana: B. Costa-Amic, 1968), 22.

70. Accords of the Junta Central de Conciliación y Arbitraje de Baja California during its inaugural meeting, May 21, 1925, in Pínera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, II:123.

71. San Diego Union, July 23, 1935; Marco Antonio Samaniego López, “Surgimiento, luchas e institucionalización del movimiento obrero en Tijuana, 1920-1940,” in Historia de Tijuana, 1889-1989, I:121-126; C. de Vaca, “Moral Renovation,” 140, 147.

72. Ribbel, “Heyday,” G-2.

73. Fragment from Carlos Trejo y Lerdo de Tejada, Norte contra sur, (México: Talleres Gráficos de la Nación, 1931), in Ramón Eduardo Ruiz, On the Rim of Mexico: Encounters of the Rich and Poor, (Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1998), 51. See also Ridgely, “Caliente,” 140, 142; Interviews with former employees of the Agua Caliente resort, in Piñera Ramírez and Ortiz Figueroa, Historia de Tijuana, 1889- 1989, I:123-125, 128.

74. Mensaje del Año Nuevo, January 1, 1935, in Lazaro Cárdenas, Palabras y documentos públicos, 1928-1970, 3 vols. (México: Siglo Veintiuno, 1978), II:201-202.

75. Cardenas, Palabras, I:62; William C. Townsend, Lazaro Cardenas: Mexican Democrat, (Ann Arbor, Mich.: George Wahr Publishing Company, 1952), 100-101.

76. Lazaro Cardenas, Apuntes, (México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1972), 286, 293, 297, 311.

77. Lazaro Cardenas, Ideario político, (México: Ediciones Era, 1972), 41, 244; Hilda Muñoz, Lazaro Cardenas: síntesis ideológica de su campaña presidencial, (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1976), 42-44; Leticia Campos Aragón, “La política laboral de Lazaro Cardenas,” en Fernando Carmona, coord., Vigencia del cardenismo, (México: Universidad Autónoma de México/Editorial Nuestro Tiempo, 1990), 119-123.

78. San Diego Union, July 22, 1935.

79. Exchange of correspondence between general Agustín Olachea, governor of the Territorio Norte de la Baja California, and president Cardenas concerning the closure of casinos in the region, December 26, 1934 and July 22, 1935, (collection of photocopied documents from the IIH/UABC); Samaniego López, “Surgimiento,” 142-153.

80. Miller, “Legendary Figures,” A-33; Ruiz, On the Rim, 48.

81. The figures reported in the press as to the Americans’ investment losses vary. It is probable that they totaled some 10 to $15 million. The Agua Caliente resort alone was valued at $10 million. San Diego Union, July 23, 1935; C. de Vaca, “Moral Renovation,” 165-166.

82. New York Times, May 9, 1937; “Acuerdo que declara de utilidad pública la expropiación de los edificios y construcciones de Agua Caliente, en Tijuana, Baja California,” December 18, 1937, in Miguel Angel Hernandez de la Vara, “El Casino de Agua Caliente en la historia de Tijuana,” paper presented in the Second Annual International History Fair, Tijuana/San Diego (undated), Appendix.

83. Mensaje a la nación, December 9, 1938, in Cardenas, Palabras, I:341.



Lawrence D. Taylor received his Ph.D in History from El Colegio de México, Mexico City, in 1990. He is currently a researcher with the Departamento de Estudios Culturales, at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte. His research interests include the history of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands region, the Mexican Revolutionary period from 1910-1920, as well as contemporary and cultural aspects of cross-border relationships in North America. His books include El nuevo norteamericano: la integración continental y su impacto sobre la cultura y la identidad nacional en la época del TLCAN (México: CISAN/Colef, 2001); La gran aventura en México: el papel de los voluntarios extranjeros en los ejércitos revolucionarios mexicanos, 1910 a 1915 (México: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 1993); and La campaña magonista de 1911 en Baja California (Tijuana, El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 1992).