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Why Mexicali?

While we were eating lunch last Sunday, Kathryn caught me off guard by asking how I learned about the Cantonese restaurants in Mexicali. She had been looking at her Instagram account and was prompted by a comment she received on a photo of the previous day’s lunch. The commenter apparently felt eating Chinese food in Mexico was a sketchy undertaking.

To be honest, after more than a year of talking about it, at that moment I’d forgotten exactly why I started looking into Mexicali. After all, it’s not really a tourist destination. After a few more minutes of reflection, though, the story came back to me.

Like many relatively healthy people, I see my doctor about once a year. I like my doctor, but he is affiliated with a large health organization, and over the past several years I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the intrusive health questionnaires that precede each appointment. They pose questions that, in my opinion, should be between doctor and patient, not stored perpetually in some database somewhere. (For what it’s worth, my personal, passive-aggressive protest has been to write my name and date of birth at the top of the first page, and then draw an X through the remaining six to ten pages.) Combine the provider privacy issues with rising insurance premiums, co-pays, and deductibles, and after one appointment a year or so ago, I was fed up enough to look into what it would take to extricate myself entirely from the U.S. healthcare system. Living in Arizona, the obvious alternative for me was to look south.

Although you can find at least some medical services in almost any Mexican border city, after a bit of research, I found Mexicali is the place to go if you want the full range of medical options — generalists, specialists, laboratories, clinics, hospitals. Even though I didn’t follow through on my threat to leave the U.S. healthcare system — not yet, at least — I did some additional research on Mexicali and discovered its connection with Chinese immigration. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Chinese immigrants were being turned away at the southern border of the U.S., and a lot of them ended up in Mexicali. The upshot of this checkered history is the city now features hundreds of Cantonese restaurants.

In short, it was two acts of Congress — the Chinese Exclusion Act and Obamacare — that led us to dine on Cantonese food in Mexicali.

In addition to all the Chinese restaurants, I also learned there was a fall league baseball team in Mexicali and some nice, centrally located, reasonably priced hotels. So our plan was to make a road trip during baseball season, which runs from September to December, on a weekend when the team was playing at home, spend a couple nights, see a game, eat some food, do a little shopping, and drive home. Pretty straightforward.

We tentatively planned a trip in December 2015 but decided it was too much with our trip to South Africa only a few weeks away. We planned a second time in December 2016, but Kathryn made a trip to New England a week earlier, and once again it seemed like too much in one month. Finally, we decided to take baseball off the table so we could visit on any weekend in any season, and to stay one night instead of two so we wouldn’t be trying to rush to Mexico after work on a Friday. That’s how we ended up there last weekend.

Curt Gilman
Curt Gilman