With 1.7 million people, the city of Tijuana in the Mexican state of Baja California is the 6th largest city in Mexico. Right across the border from San Diego, California, Tijuana is often called “The Gateway to Mexico.” Founded in the late 1800s around a ranch called Rancho Tia Juana, the city grew and is now very modern. It serves as a magnet for people from all over Mexico as jobs are plentiful there and the standard of living is high. As a relatively new city, Tijuana does not have legends running deep into its colonial past like many other Mexican cities. It also does not have any stories rooted in longstanding indigenous traditions, as most of the local natives, who were few in number to begin with, were either killed off or absorbed into the broader mestizo Mexican society generations ago. Most of the tall tales found in Tijuana would be more properly classified as urban legends, which Wikipedia defines as:
“A genre of folklore comprising stories circulated as true, especially as having happened to a friend or family member, often with horrifying or humorous elements. These legends can be entertainment, but often concern mysterious peril or troubling events, such as disappearances and strange objects. They may also be confirmation of moral standards, or reflect prejudices, or be a way to make sense of societal anxieties.”
The Mexican metropolis of Tijuana has many urban legends. Here are 4.
- The Headless Dancer from Agua Caliente
Driving through the Zona Río neighborhood of Tijuana, the visitor comes across a strange, out-of-place monument on the grounds of Lázaro Cárdenas High School. Called El Minarete by the locals, this spire shooting dozens of feet into the sky does indeed look like an Islamic minaret. It seems like it should be attached to a mosque in Cairo or Istanbul rather than existing on the campus of a Mexican high school. People new to the area often ask about this strange landmark. In the 1920s, El Minarete was part of the Agua Caliente Casino and Hotel, a lavish resort done in an architectural style which was a mix of Mexican colonial, California mission, and neo-Islamic design. The casino resort, long since demolished, was built to cater to wealthy Americans who would escape to Tijuana during the Prohibition Era when alcohol was outlawed in the United States. The Agua Caliente attracted the wealthy from all over the world who would gamble in the resort’s fabled Gold Room where patrons used gold chips and the minimum bet was $500. In the 1930s, according to legend, there was a beautiful young woman, a local girl, who would frequent the casino to seduce the wealthy young men staying there. Whether it be European royalty or the sons of American industrialists, the woman picked her mark and robbed her victims of cash or other valuables. The young woman was known as an excellent dancer and she was so stunning that no man could resist her. In one instance, the woman allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from a high-roller who had come down from California for a long weekend. While no one could pin the robbery on her, many regulars suspected the young woman and rumors swirled around the Agua Caliente about her notorious deeds. After this major incident, and while thefts of guests continued, the Tijuana Police searched the young woman’s home looking for stolen items, but they never found anything. Another rumor had it that she stashed all her ill-begotten wealth in a secret location. One day, one of the American regulars, a young New Yorker from a line of “old money,” decided to confront this Mexican seductress after he spent the night with her and found some of his valuables missing out of his hotel room. The two argued violently, and the young man wound up killing her by decapitation. The man from New York fled and never faced justice. Today, according to the legend, late at night you can see the ghost of a headless woman lurking around the minaret, looking for her stashed loot that she never had the opportunity to enjoy while she was still alive.
- Boulevard 2000, the Hellish Highway
An area known as a mini “hot spot” for UFO and other paranormal activity is along a highway called Boulevard 2000 which connects Tijuana with Rosarito, a beach town to the city’s southwest. The area is a focus of intense development and industrial activity as the city of Tijuana increases in population. The road passes through what could be called one of the less-desirable parts of TJ. In recent years, the road has been the setting of alleged alien abductions and close encounters with strange objects in the sky. For more information about the possible otherworldly connection to this road, please see Mexico Unexplained Episode 136 titled, “UFOs Over Tijuana.” http://mexicounexplained.com/ufos-over-tijuana/ Without the extraterrestrial aspect, this road has had its share of strange things happening on or around it and has been the fodder of urban legends for years. A concentration of paranormal activity seems to occur around the old Paraíso Azteca, a recreational park featuring a zoo, a spa, a museum, a suspension bridge across a gorge, a section built up like the Old West, and, ironically, a concrete flying saucer standing two stories tall. The park was closed down in 2006 and abandoned until 2019 when new owners promised to refurbish the place and reopen it sometime in the year 2020. Some people in the surrounding area have claimed the Paraíso Azteca grounds have been an important location for satanic cult rituals and that could be the reason for so many strange happenings in the surrounding area. A teacher at the adjacent Silvano Preciado School mentioned in an internet forum that the school is probably the most haunted in the whole country of Mexico. In broad daylight, according to this teacher, things fly across the classroom and furniture moves on its own. The area is always enshrouded in mists during the non-daylight hours and teachers at the school are afraid to stay late. Indeed, the Tijuana Police have been called to the area many times responding to reports of murders and bizarre activity. The police are inclined to believe that much of the strangeness happening around Boulevard 2000 has to do with cult members and low-level gang activity and has nothing to do with ghosts, magical beings, or extraterrestrials. The objects that people supposedly see in the sky are really fires and other lights used by people engaging in illegal activities in the hills. The lights combined with the disorientation caused by the famous local fog may cause people’s imaginations to run wild when they see these lights. The boulevard remains an eerie place and will most likely be the setting of many strange stories and urban legends for the foreseeable future.
- The Bride of the White Gate Cemetery
Every city has legends surrounding their cemeteries, and Tijuana is no exception. This story takes place at the Panteón Municipal Numero Uno known locally as Panteón de Puerta Blanca, or the White Gate Cemetery. Sometime in the 1940s a wealthy merchant’s daughter, Enriqueta Gil, fell in love with a boy who was way below her social class. The young woman’s father disapproved of this new boyfriend and forbade her from seeing him. Enriqueta and the boy were to be married and the edicts of the father devastated the young woman. Without her true love, she languished for years, became ill and eventually died. Her family buried Enriqueta in a beautiful grave in the White Gate Cemetery which attracts visitors to this day because of the legends associated with this tragic story. Over the decades many people have reported seeing the ghost of a woman dressed in white in and around the cemetery. Taxi drivers, especially, have had alleged encounters with the spirit of the lovelorn Enriqueta. One night, in the year 1951, a taxista was driving his cab on the outskirts of the cemetery when he observed a young woman dressed in white standing in front of the main gate, so he stopped his taxi and offered the service. The woman accepted and told him to take her to a house located on Fifth Street. Upon arrival, she explained to the taxi driver that she had no money, but that she would leave him a ring as a guarantee so he could return to collect his fare from her father. The next day, the taxi driver returned to that beautiful house on Fifth Street and asked about his passenger from the night before. The young woman’s father, who answered the door, was very upset thinking that it was a joke, but the taxi driver showed him his daughter’s ring, leaving him amazed. When questioning the taxi driver about the ring, the driver explained what had happened to the young woman he picked up in the cemetery, detailing her characteristics, which coincided with those of the girl depicted so beautifully in the photographs that the father showed him. Other taxi drivers who have also driven Enriqueta to her house on Fifth Street point out that the young woman borrows their jacket, since she says it is very cold. When they return the next day for their pay and their jacket they are taken with the terrible surprise of Enriqueta’s death, and their jacket is always hung inside the girl’s bedroom. In one telling of this legend, a few hours after sunset a young man named Juan Zárate, a newcomer to Tijuana from Jalisco, got out of his truck near the White Gate Cemetery and he spotted a young woman standing a few yards away from the entrance. She was very beautiful with curly black hair and she wore a white dress with a red rose on her chest. She asked Juan if he could accompany her to her house. Juan agreed to walk with the woman, thinking that she was afraid to walk alone at that time of night. They both started walking, but when they reached the gate at the main entrance to the cemetery, the young woman stopped and Juan could see that the gate was locked. However, Juan was distracted for a few seconds, and when he turned back to the gate, he observed that the woman in white was inside the cemetery even though the entrance was still locked. Noticing that he saw her, the young woman held out her hands to Juan and said: “This is my house, come with me.” She then started pulling him by the arms. Juan struggled to get away and ran without stopping until he reached the house where he lived with his cousin on Calle Juárez. The poor young man went weeks without being able to speak due to what he had experienced. Meanwhile, the legend of the beautiful Enriqueta lives on.
- El Ayuwoki
This story is more creepypasta than urban legend. The Urban Dictionary defines “creepypasta” as,
“internet horror stories or a myth passed around other sites to frighten readers and viewers. The word, “Creepypasta” comes from the term, “copypasta,” an internet slang term for a block of text that gets copied and pasted from website to website. Creepypastas are sometimes supplemented with pictures, audio or video footage related to the story and are typically with gory, distorted or, otherwise, shocking content.”
El Ayuwoki has its strange beginnings in 2009 after the death of American entertainer and pop star Michael Jackson. Many believe the urban legend began in Tijuana when unnamed people started circulating around a video of a zombified statue of Michael Jackson with words on the screen, “When you go to sleep you will hear a ‘hee hee.’” This was a reference to a famous sound made by Jackson in many of his songs and videos. The Spanish name for this zombie creature, “El Ayuwoki,” comes from a line from Michael Jackson’s song, “Smooth Criminal”: “Annie, are you okay?” El Ayuwoki supposedly shows up in your bedroom at 3:00 in the morning and will threaten to kill you. Several YouTube videos popped up discussing this strange bit of creepypasta in 2009 and 2010. Like Slenderman and other internet memes, El Ayuwoki has taken on a life of its own and people in Tijuana and other parts of northern Mexico have reported actually seeing this zombie-like Michael Jackson creature scaring them with its signature, “hee hee.” In 2010 the division of the police department responsible for investigating cybercrimes even issued a statement about El Ayuwoki. It reads, “Although a lot of people believe this is a kind of demon or ghost from the Internet, there is nothing supernatural in this matter. The kids and teenagers are looking to share it and believe in it because it is trendy, which could generate sleep issues, panic or anxiety.” But, could the mass belief in something actually cause its manifestation? Perhaps it’s best for visitors to Tijuana to keep their eyes peeled for a strange Michael Jackson zombie creature in the wee hours of the morning or suffer an uncertain fate.
Ariday Ortega, Nairda. “Paraiso Azteca will Reopen in Tijuana this 2020.” In San Diego Red, 1 Mar 2020.
Borbolla, Kathia. “Leyendas Urbanas de Tijuana.” In Debate, 28 Nov. 2017.
Dyer, Chris. “Michael Jackson ‘Momo-style’ video that tells people a figure will enter their room and scream ‘Hee hee’ like the singer prompts police warning in Mexico” In The Daily Mail. 7 Mar 2019.
Leyendas de TJ – Blogspot