The group is Tijuana River Network. The mission, adjusted a few times, but seemingly decided, is … “To support the conservation and restoration of the Tijuana River Watershed though education, outreach, and advocacy without borders.”

The group met in Playas de Tijuana last Saturday, March 27, at the quaint Café Aquamarino. Representatives from Fundacion la Puerta, Proyecto Fronterizo, Fundacion Que Transforma, Alter Terra, Surfrider, Border Encuentro, Grupo Ecologista Tijuana, Tijuana Calidad de Vida, Tijuana Estuary, WILDCOAST, and the hospitable hostess and owner of the cafe, Carmen Romo, gathered to share and collect ideas.

The purpose of the meeting was to unite the efforts of Mexico and U.S. governments, citizens and environmental activists and to create change for the polluted condition of the beaches, river valley, the waters and the ecological lives that are shared between the two. People are refusing to allow the area to become no man’s land. With persistence, anything is possible. With more voices, persistence will be heard.

California and Mexico share a unique relationship – geographical neighbors with different sized bank accounts. The good thing about black and white issues is the gray space in between. The gray area is where commonality will bring change to the area. I was one of two people who spoke basically zero Spanish, but Oscar Romo of TJ River National Estuarine Research Reserve, for our benefit, two out of 14 people, gave his entire presentation in English.

Compromise and respect was abundant in the group’s conversations. Sincere smiles, hugs and besos were plentiful. The walls of Carmen’s café are a soft turquoise; nothing stands between her windows and brilliant views of the ocean. Smells of coffee and teas infused with flowers swirled together with the salty air blowing in off the Pacific. Standing there, taking it all in, for just a moment we forgot that the water in front of us contained high levels of sewage. We forgot that ocean lives would be lost due to plastic ingestion. We forgot that trash would float down into the waves, carrying tires and children’s shoes. We remember though the water test results and the reasons why we crossed the border. We want to believe that every ocean should be brilliant blue – like Carmen’s walls – but they are not.

This group is about being a good neighbor. We know that when we help Mexico advance, we advance our own lives. Neighbors choose what kind of relationship they are going to have with the other. The TJ River Network is going to share and take turns; the next meeting will be on the U.S. side. Numbers will help this cause, show up; we can get this thing rolling.