September 28, 2021
Postcards have a magical pull. They allow us to see the past through charming relics that allow us to travel back in time. Daniel D. Arreola’s Postcards from the Baja California Border offers a window into the historical and geographical past of storied Mexican border communities. Once-popular tourist destinations from the 1900s through the 1950s, the border communities explored in Postcards from the Baja California Border used to be filled with revelers, cabarets, curio shops, and more. The postcards in this book show the bright and dynamic past of California’s borderlands while diving deep into the historic and geographic significance of the imagery found on the postcards. With 313 color images, this book creates a vivid picture of what life was like for tourists and residents of these towns in the early and mid-twentieth century. Today, we share a sample of the wonderful postcards pictured in this new work.
Fig. 2.12 Tourist group in front of Magruder’s Photo Shop, Tijuana real photo.
Tourist group sans costumes in front of Magruder’s Photo Shop next door to the Big Curio Store in downtown Tijuana. In front of Magruder’s are panels holding sale samples of his real photo postcards. On the verso of some of his postcards, Magruder had ink stamped “Duplicates of this Photo can be had by sending 15c and mentioning Negative Number to—ROY W. MAGRUDER, SAN DIEGO, CAL.” Roy W. Magruder, 1910s.
Fig. 4.6 Greetings from Tijuana Mexico, print postcard.
“Greetings from Tijuana, Mexico.” This postcard was published for The Big Curio Store, Lower California Commercial Co., Inc., Tijuana, Mexico by Western Publishing and Novelty Co., no. 123366, Los Angeles, CA, 1920s. The Big Curio Store published additional versions of this postcard printed by Curt Teich, Chicago, IL, in 1935 (5A-H1106) and in 1950 (OC-H961).
Fig. 4.20 Honeymoon couple posed in a Tijuana burro cart, real photo postcard.
Honeymoon couple posed in a Tijuana burro cart, 1951. So-called burros pintados de cebra (burros painted to look like zebras) became all the rage by the 1950s. The burros were rented to photographers by the Lorenzo Franco family, who maintained the animals in a corral on Callejón Z, an alley off Avenida Revolución.
Fig. 9.24 Residences in Colonia Moderna, Mexicali, real photo postcard.
Residences in Colonia Moderna. A post–World War II neighborhood in Mexicali, these housescapes mirrored those common to American middle-class suburbs with sidewalks, property setbacks, ornamental landscaping, and modern house plans. México Fotográfico 116, 1950s.
Fig. 10.5 Governors meet on Baja boundary dividing Calexico and Mexicali, real photo postcard.
William Stephens, Governor of California, and Esteban Cantú, governor of the northern district of Baja California, meet on the boundary line dividing Calexico and Mexicali, June 11, 1918. Photo postcard, 1918.
Fig. 11.9 Palace Cabaret and Cantina, Mexicali, nighttime real photo postcard.
Palace Cabaret and Cantina. Nighttime photography became something of a specialty of Mexicali postcard photographers who documented the “White Way” cabarets of the border town. Foto. Iris, 1910s.
Daniel D. Arreola is a cultural and historical geographer who specializes in the study of the Mexican American borderlands. He is an emeritus professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University. His most recent book is Postcards from the Chihuahua Border: Revisiting a Pictorial Past, 1900s–1950s.