SAN DIEGO – “Quite a remarkable experience – both terrifying and inspiring.”
That’s how University of San Diego business law professors Craig and Linda Barkacs describe their weekend trip to Tijuana – cut short as cartel violence exploded in Baja, California.
“We were hearing what everyone else heard — that there was violence in other parts of Mexico. We’ve been in San Diego a long time and we thought, well, it’s not Tijuana. So really we didn’t give it a second thought because we thought it was elsewhere,” said Craig Barkacs.
The couple arrived in Tijuana on Friday and were teaching a class for about 20 local university students that night when they realized something was wrong.
“And then all of a sudden, I couldn’t get their attention. They were just looking at their cell phones. They seemed very upset and they were talking in Spanish. Minutes later, official from the university came to our door of our classroom and said ‘you guys have to evacuate now,'” said Linda.
As cartel members in the region hijacked and burned vehicles and set up roadblocks, the couple says they squeezed into a car with other professors and were rushed to their hotel.
“During that trip, we could, we could see the lights flashing a few blocks away — definitely hear the police sirens. We could see smoke and our very skillful driver is making sure that he was keeping us clear of any imminent danger,” said Craig.
After a restless night, they left early Saturday morning to get back across the border.
“And they sped us through customs — he must have had some kind of expedited pass or something because we got through in record time. We got back home at about 8:30 in the morning, spent about two hours putting everything up on blackboard and Zoom for online class and taught class for the rest of the day,” said Linda.
The couple – grateful for a safe return – and for the compassion from those who were with them.
“The first thing they did was they asked how we were. They’re still there with a lot of danger and we’re in the States and they’re asking how we are. It was very touching,” said Craig.