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For most Baja-bound Americans, Tecate serves as a convenient alternative to the northbound Tijuana-San Ysidro border crossing, and not much else. Although the town itself is sunny and pleasant—especially when compared to the sprawling jumbles of Tijuana and Mexicali—there isn't much here in the way of tourist infrastructure. A quick pit stop is probably the extent of many a traveler's stay.
Now a town powered mostly by manufacturing, Tecate was once the home of the Yumano Indians (the remains of a settlement can be visited east along Highway 2 near La Rumerosa). The name Tecate likely derives from the Yumano zacate, which means "deep trench." Indeed, the town itself is set in a dramatic bowl surrounded by tall mountains peppered with desert brush.
Modern-day Tecate began as the private ranch of Juan Bandani, a Peruvian who inherited 11,120 acres from the Mexican government. Bandani went on to become the mayor of San Diego (at that time still controlled by Mexico), and Tecate saw its heyday in the 1880s when the Valle de Guadalupe wine industry took off and the Bandani ranch headquarters became a supply stop for farmers heading south to plant grapes and olives. Eventually a town grew up around the ranch, and manufacturing blossomed on its outskirts, leaving the small-town atmosphere intact downtown. Tecate's best-known enterprise—the massive beer factory—however, is located just four blocks from the central plaza.
Free from Tijuana's grit and Mexicali's boomtime strip malls, Tecate is a homey place with local flavor and easygoing charm. Although there's been a mild increase in crime in the area, Tecate is neither a target nor a thoroughfare for drug violence, and most visitors will feel safe during daylight hours.
Tecate at a Glance
Elsewhere in Baja Peninsula
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