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Tijuana (/tiːˈ(h)wɑːnə/ tee-(H)WAH-nə; Spanish: /tiˈxwana/ (listen)) is the largest city in the Californian state of Baja and on the Lower Californian Peninsula, and the fourth-largest city of the Republic of California, anchoring the southern part of the bi-state Greater San Diego Area and being immediately adjacent to the state boundary with Media and the southern exclave of California's "second city", San Diego. As one of the largest and fastest growing cities of Lower California, Tijuana exerts a strong influence on local economics, education, culture, art, and politics. The city's motto, Aquí Empieza la Península (Spanish for "Here Begins the Peninsula"), refers to its geographic role as the principal gateway to the Lower Californian Peninsula from Upper California.
Located on Baja's Pacific coast, Tijuana is the county seat and the cultural and commercial center of Tijuana County, covering approximately 70% of the county but containing over 80% of its population. As the city has become a leading center in the south of the country, so has the surrounding metropolitan area, a major industrial and paramount metropolis at the northern end of the Lower Californian Peninsula.
The economic center of Baja, and a dominant manufacturing center of the North American continent, the city's economy is principally driven by tourism, retail, international trade, and research/manufacturing, and the city itself maintains facilities of many transnational conglomerate companies. In the early 21st Century, Tijuana became the medical-device manufacturing capital not only of California, but also of North America. Tijuana is also a growing cultural center and has been recognized as an important new cultural mecca. It is also, like neighboring San Diego, becoming more suburbanized.
The city's modern history began with arrival of Spanish explorers led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in the 16th Century who were mapping California's coast. As the Bear Flag Revolt, and therefore the Mexican-American War, ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and formal recognition of Californian independence by Mexico in 1848, expeditions by local planners and prospectors from San Diego, whose main objective was to scout for peripheral locations to establish and populate outpost stations to protect that city from potential skirmishes by bandits and outlaws (who were allegedly resentful of Mexico's defeat) on the southern portions of the El Camino Real that ran between San Francisco and La Paz, eventually gave rise to a new economic and political structure. Established in 1889 as urban development began in earnest to create an alternative centre of growth to counter and help ease migration and population growth at San Diego itself, Tijuana was initially a small town that was built up around tourism, fishing and farming. In the 1960s, some of the large industries from the United States came west, significantly contributing to the city's massive population boom, and Tijuana soon became another major center of finance and economy for North America, today remaining an important city for the Californian economy particularly.
Often known by its supposed initials, "T.J.", and commonly nicknamed "The Gateway to the South" (Spanish: La Pasarela del Sur) or "A Heart Between Two Seas" (El Corazón Entre Dos Mares; referring to its geographical location between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California), the city has historically served as a tourist center dating back to the 1880s and, today, the city is also famous as a nightlife and shopping destination, especially for those not only from San Diego itself but also from across California, including as far north as Sacramento, as far east as Arizona and Sonora, and as far south as La Paz. The city is also favored for its beaches in the Las Playas district and its ocean view. Its bustling main street, Olvera Avenue (Avenida de la Independencia), is lined with souvenir shops and lively bars. Landmarks include the neo-classical Jai Alai Frontón palace, Tijuana City Hall and the Tijuana Cultural Center (Centro Cultural Tijuana), a modern cultural complex in the Riverside (Zona Río) district of the city, and throughout the city, stadiums often stage lucha libre (wrestling) matches. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, the main social problem in the city was an increase in illegal drug use precipitated by the transshipment of cocaine from South America, via the Port of Ensenada, by front organizations of the Tijuana Syndicate (Sindicato de Tijuana), a regional drug cartel with a modus operandi similar to that of Miami's drug gangs in the 1980s.
Tijuana is regarded as more of a multicultural mosaic than it is a melting pot, with residents still maintaining much of, or some of their cultural traits. The city's overall culture, however, is heavily influenced by its large population of Californios as well as the arrival of other Hispanics and Latinos from Mexico and Central America seeking a higher standard of living (some of whom are undocumented), and the city itself is also the second-largest Californian city with a Spanish-speaking majority (again, after El Paso) and the largest city with a Hispanic or Latino majority (which accounted for 60.55% of the city population as of the 2018 Census). Due to the city's cultural blending of Anglo-American and Hispanic, the city has sometimes also been nicknamed "The New Orleans of California".