Popotla is Poseidon's Pacific Pantry!Written by Ian Wright
Tijuana's Revival: Part Two
The appeal of the Tijuana area extends well beyond its city limits, and by heading south just a short distance along the Mex 1 highway many other places of interest can be found, not least Popotla, a no nonsense fishing village off the beaten track which is attracting attention for its excellent fresh fish and seafood.
We headed first to Popotla, a small fishing village off a dirt track just south of the film studios built in the 90s for Titanic and then used for other aquatic productions. Most people park on the dirt track and walk down to the seafront but my sister-in-law Aurora had other ideas, and took us for a ride along the beach. We parked up facing the ocean and immediately got out and strolled amongst the numerous stalls selling the day's catch.
Options were aplenty, and as well as the fish and seafood available there were also stalls selling fresh fruit and veg, sweets and candies, and two ladies were circulating selling hats and other nick nacks. Not that the sun was a problem on this unusually cloudy day, and rain was forecast for later in the day. Happy with what we'd seen, we decided to return later to eat, after we'd been to the other two places.
Calafia is a picturesque resort which stands at the point where California was first split into Alta and Baja (Upper and Lower) in the late 18th century. The boundary was moved further north to its present position when Alta California became part of the USA in 1848. Various historical artefacts can be found here, though the ocean views are its greatest attraction.
On to Puerto Nuevo, and a completely different atmosphere from Popotla. Maybe it was the fact that the place was quiet on this overcast day, but there seemed an air of desperation amongst the street hawkers and stall holders here. Whereas a polite "No gracias" had been accepted graciously in Popotla, I found my path being blocked here several times, and an aggressive dimension to the cries of "Ocean view: 15 dollars!" We walked once around the block and headed back to Popotla.
By now it was late afternoon, so to save a little time Norma and myself went to buy beer while Aurora chose something for us to eat and someone to cook it for us. When we got back she was purchasing one large red fish each, PLUS one large spider crab. Each.
The red fish is being sold as Californian Red Snapper north of the border, though an expert writing here points out that it is nothing of the sort, and is actually a type of rockfish. It was utterly delicious anyway! The crabs are nicknamed "marcianos", which has nothing to do with Italian American boxing legends of the 1950s. If you hold up the shell with the front end pointing to the floor they look like the Mekon from Dan Dare, in other words, a Martian ("Marciano").
I watched and took pictures as our fish was descaled and our crab was prepared for cooking by young lads. Then Aurora took us to meet "La Guera" ("The Blondie"), our chef for the day, who was happy to be photographed as she told us about a film crew who'd visited last winter, led by a presenter called "Tony", who'd had problems breaking open the crab with the pebble he'd been issued with. We sat at the same table, she told us.
After a very short wait the fish, then the crab arrived, along with rice, refried beans and salad. It was, of course, magnificent, and cheap at the price too. The fish had cost 20 pesos each, and the crab 30, and La Guera charged us only 180 for her contribution. As well as being being magnificent and cheap it was also way too much, so most of the crab came home with us in a box!
By the time we'd finished eating it was starting to get dark. As we headed back up Mex 1 towards Tijuana the predicted rain arrived, which put us off the free Lila Downs concert happening that night on "La Revo", so we headed home to let the food go down and put off La Revo to another day.
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