South Of The Border

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At the other end of town is a yet more remarkable watering hole. Johan Hussong, a German immigrant, opened Hussong’s Cantina in 1892 to serve Ensenada’s miners and ranchers. Almost nothing has changed there since except for the addition of electricity. From its sawdust-covered floor and its roaming shoeshine man to its green tongue and groove wainscoting, its fifty-foot-long wooden bar, its mirrored back bar with painted-on columns and arches, and the vaqueros and workingmen who sit there at their drinks (during the day, for at night a younger crowd moves in), Hussong’s is a sudden step into an unaltered Old West. Look at the photo on the wall of bandoleered troops marching through Ensenada’s dusty streets during the Revolution of 1911. You might think they could be there right outside the door today.

Alone among all the places I saw in Ensenada and Tijuana, Hussong’s has remained utterly faithful to its history, and it has thereby made itself into an institution. Several competing shops nearby, each barely smaller than the cantina itself, sell “official” Hussong’s T-shirts that are popular all up and down the West Coast. Here the past is most truly preserved—and is most truly alive and beloved.

—Frederick Alien TO PLAN A TRIP