This Mexican border city is planning a fashion makeover for its throngs of street vendors by giving them an ultimatum: Wear brightly colored...
TIJUANA, Mexico — This Mexican border city is planning a fashion makeover for its throngs of street vendors by giving them an ultimatum: Wear brightly colored, traditional garb or leave.
The new dress code initially took effect June 25 in a popular pedestrian mall in time for the busy Fourth of July weekend — although most vendors ignored it.
But it will be extended gradually to other streets, including Avenida Revolucion — the bustling main tourist drag where one vendor donned a giant sombrero with the words “Mr. Viagra” on it. He beckoned tourists to be photographed for $5 in a donkey cart.
The new decree, ordered by Tijuana Mayor Jorge Hank Rhon, is designed to showcase the city’s melting pot of Mexican cultures to the world. He said the fashion mandate will allow visitors to “feel Mexico.”
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Those who disobey will be given two warnings and then forced to leave the area where the dress code applies.
The dresses “are very nice, very clean, very colorful, very happy-looking,” he said Saturday.
The dress code was the latest decision to affect Tijuana’s estimated 20,000 street vendors. Since December, the city has kicked some 2,000 out of downtown after competing shop owners complained their sales were suffering.
So far, the dress code applies only to vendors in a pedestrian mall that begins near San Diego’s main border crossing — a short stretch lined with pharmacies, restaurants and souvenir shops. And it is only imposed on the weekends.
The outfits are a mishmash of different Indian styles. Some feature brightly colored ribbons as trim, others are emblazoned with the word “MEXICO” from head to toe. Men must wear black pants and a white shirt.
“It’s part of our culture,” said Councilman Edgar Fernandez Bustamante, who wants vendors to dress up weekdays as well. “It’s not a question of making less of someone or trying to take away their dignity.”
City officials say the costumes are no different from Colonial Williamsburg’s Revolutionary War soldier outfits, Buckingham Palace guard regalia or Disneyland’s Mickey Mouse costumes.
And tourist areas across Mexico have long relied on traditional decorations, including costumes. More than two years ago, Mexico City ordered downtown police to wear charro outfits, dressing them in spurs, guns and broad-brimmed hats.
Cecilia Angelos, who sells $3 metal bracelets, sunglasses and ceramic Mickey Mouse dolls on a pedestrian bridge crossing the Tijuana River, was among the few vendors Saturday wearing the new costumes.
She said tourists had complimented her on the $10 outfit and she believes the new wardrobe will be good for business.
Still, the 30-year-old acknowledges other vendors don’t like what they have been told to wear.
“They worry that people are going to make fun of them,” she said.
Businesses have donated some outfits, authorities say, but many vendors who are barely scraping by have been forced to dig into their own pockets.