Zona Norte – Photographs

Chris Bava

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Arriving in Tijuana after over a decade of heroin abuse in a past life, I felt the garish lights of Tijuana’s zona de tolerancia, or North Zone, beckoning. I was fascinated by their resonance, and the street life, brimming with pathos, quickly made la zona norte my favorite part of town. The challenge of taking a camera to El Bordo, the river bottom that runs along the border between Mexico and the U.S., where an estimated 2,000 homeless drug addicted US deportees live, was irresistible. I would drive along Via Rapide, known as the “most dangerous road in TJ,” and look at the shadowy figures crouched along the river bank, or on the highway meridian, openly cooking up and shooting heroin. I became determined to gain access. Everyone I asked told me it was too risky. One day I decided to chance it. I noticed two guys poised at the edge of the high- way about to daringly dodge traffic to reach the river bank on the other side. I flagged them down: “Hey, you wanna make a little cash? Let me take some photos.” So began a long, interesting friendship with the people of Zona Norte.

—Chris Bava

As we were going to press, we learned that Chris died in a car accident, along with his wife and brother, early in the morning of October 21, 2012. This issue is dedicated to his memory.

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