Tijuana, like other border towns in Mexico, has a reputation for drug violence and American tourists who seek cheap and seedy nightlife. But music lovers in the know have been heading to "TJ" for years to hit clubs just off a street called La Revolucion. They go to hear singers like Ceci Bastida.
Bastida grew up in Tijuana, near the beach, but lives in Los Angeles now. Her new album is called Veo La Marea, or "I See the Tide," and in her case politics live in the clubs, as well.
"I wanted to talk a little about the drug war happening right now in Mexico, and criticize our president's strategy," Bastida says. "He's trying to get rid of these leaders of cartels, and in my opinion that's not the strategy to fix this problem. I don't have the ideal way of dealing with this, but I think it's important to focus on other things."
Bastida's career as a musician began at a very early age: She was only 15 when she began singing for a living. She was in a band called Tijuana No! in the early 1990s.
"Back then, when I discovered that I could play in a band — and that I could hang out with these people that I had a lot of things in common with — the only thing I wanted to do was play," she tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon. "I was so young, so I wasn't able to hang out in the bars that we played at."
Now, post-childhood, Bastida lives in Los Angeles — a place she says has always felt familiar.
"L.A. is such a Latino city, and it's so close to Tijuana that it's easy for me to get into a car, visit my family and come back," she says.
Familiarity with Los Angeles has worked its way into Bastida's music, as well. On her new album, she performs a cover of the Go-Go's hit "This Town" with an updated Latin feel.
"This is such a Los Angeles story, and I thought it only focused on a particular side of L.A.," she says. "I wanted to add the Latino presence — all these people that are here doing these jobs that people don't pay attention to."
Another song, "No Me Conoceras," was written for Andrew Sean Greer's novel The Confessions of Max Tivoli and has a different feel from "This Town." Bastida says that although she varies her content, she feels the most comfortable with the socially and politically critical content.
"[Politics] is part of my life," she says. "It's part of everyone's life. And I feel like it's important to talk about."