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Plaza La Ocho opens in downtown Tijuana

Nice park, but city green space is still lacking (understatement)

The former turnstile at the border entry was repurposed for the park
  • The former turnstile at the border entry was repurposed for the park

“El Parque de la Ocho is more than just a space for activities, it is also an area to develop values like respect, harmony, and a sense of belonging,” Dr. Jorge Astiazarán, Tijuana’s mayor said publicly during the inauguration of Plaza La Ocho.

The park in downtown Tijuana officially opened on Sunday, April 10th, five years after the demolition of La Comandancia de la Ocho. The old police station, cell blocks, and fire station were built in 1971 and demolished in 2011. Paying tribute to what used to be there, the park was named Plaza de la Ocho and has a police tower (some may find intimidating).

A tribute to the former police headquarters (in background)

A tribute to the former police headquarters (in background)

Located on 8th street and Avenida Constitución, the park has an area for reading, a children’s playground with modern equipment, an amphitheater that seats 125 people, shaded and green areas, and inlaid water fountains, all crammed into a 37,450-square-foot area.

Recorrido virtual (walkthrough video of park

The price tag was 15 million pesos (around $850,000). Funding came from the federal government agency PREP (Programa de Recuperación de Espacios Públicos). In addition, they patched surrounding streets and plan to fix other streets downtown.

I have visited the park several times since it opened to the public. Some of the green areas still need to flourish, so as of now, they are brownish areas. The trees that are supposed to be cherry blossoms are just twigs now. Some of the equipment in the children’s area seem to be plastic toys built for light use; it’s doubtful they will survive longer than a year. The amphitheater looks promising for any type of event. The water-fountain area is the most crowded, especially on hot days.

There are two modern structures on each side of the plaza. The one on the south end is a ten-foot-tall sculpture consisting of a wooden grid of squares with steel cables running between them. The second structure is a revolving gate that at first gave me the impression that the park will eventually be gated, but I was wrong.

The "windmill" at night

The "windmill" at night

from inauguration video

“The significance is that it is the entry to Latin America,” Roberto Sánchez, the secretary of urban development and ecology, told Uniradio. “If you remember, to enter Mexico from San Ysidro, there was an old rehilete [“windmill” style gate]. We have recovered that original rehilete and placed it on the northeast of the park. It symbolizes the entry of the park and the door to America Latina.”

This is not the first time symbolism of the border has been used in public spaces in Tijuana. Current governor of Baja, “Kiko” Vega, commissioned El Reloj Monumental in 2001. Back then, he was Tijuana’s mayor. The monument looks like an interpretation of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and; when built, it symbolized the new millennium. Many locals also call Tijuana’s arch “the gateway to Latin America.”

Tijuana can be considered one of the worst major cities for public green spaces in Mexico: one article cites less than one square foot per person. In comparison, San Diego reportedly provides over 130 square feet per citizen.

Plaza la Ocho joins Parque Teniente Guerrero, the oldest park in the city, as the second public outdoor space in downtown Tijuana. Both parks are small for a city this big; they tend to be overcrowded. There are two other larger parks in Tijuana: Parque de la Amistad in Otay and Parque Morelos in La Mesa.

A step in the right direction, Plaza La Ocho turned what was an abandoned space and ghost building into a modern park that will be a favorite for families to visit.

Another ghost building just a few blocks away, El Viejo Toreo, has been an abandoned lot since its demolition in 2007 and there are no stated plans for the future. The space is nearly five times the size of Plaza La Ocho.

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