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The Los Angeles Times has this front-page Sunday story about the astounding drop in tourism in Tijuana, saying that the city to our south has seen a 90 percent dip since 2005.

Reporter Richard Marosi attributes the drop to increased drug violence in the city, but quotes officials who say that beautification efforts and police crackdowns have actually made the Tijuana experience safer.

The print version carried a better headline — “A Real Tijuana Hangover” — than the online version and also has a great front-page photo of a restaurant owner dozing off with a bottle of Pacifico on his table and an empty restaurant behind him (you can see the photo by clicking here).

Here’s how the story starts:

TIJUANA — Marcos Rojas, a waiter at Mr. Tequila Restaurant, roams the Plaza Viva Tijuana, eager to pour double shots for partying tourists. This downtown gateway used to be crowded with Southern California day-trippers, Midwestern families and busloads of German and Japanese tourists.

But empty bars and shuttered businesses now outnumber people mingling near the broken fountain. Rojas, who earns tips by making a show of slamming tequila shots on the table and pouring them down customers’ throats, says it’s been a week since he performed one of his signature tricks, twirling a tourist on his shoulders.

“Look around, it’s dead,” he said.

In the sleepy plaza, down the lonely pedestrian promenade leading to the heart of the tourist district on Avenida Revolucion, bored waiters and strip club hawkers compete for the trickle of customers, while old-time merchants wax nostalgic about the days when a downtown dotted with attractions drew millions of visitors, including the occasional Hollywood star.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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