The best thing that ever happened to me in San Diego didn’t even happen in San Diego. It happened 20 minutes away, in a garbage-strewn depression in Tijuana, when my friend Derrik Chinn and I knocked on Armando Muñoz García’s door.
We’d heard rumors about the eccentric architect who’d built an 18-ton concrete sculpture in his backyard of a naked lady that locals called La Mona (The Doll). But rumors were one thing; seeing her up close, all hair and hips and tits, standing six stories tall in a shantytown near the airport — that was something else. Muñoz offered to give us a tour of La Mona, who turned out to have a three-story apartment built into her curves.
“I sleep in her bosom,” he explained with a sly grin. “I have my office in her head, and the bathroom… well, that’s downstairs.”
Like a Mexican variation on Lady Liberty, La Mona was Muñoz’s love letter to his city. As I approached the trapezoidal window that opened up from her heart, the view stretched out over her perky cement nipples toward the distant horizon, swelling with the chaotic carnival of colors and sounds and life that is Tijuana.
There was a touch of magical realism in witnessing such mad, audacious creativity in such an unexpected place. Life on the border is full of such surprises.