Neha Patil (Editor)

Zona Norte, Tijuana

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A woman leaning on the glass wall in Zona Norte, Tijuana and wearing a black blazer, pink top, denim pants, and high heels

De Wallen, Patpong, Sonagachi

Zona Norte (officially colonia Zona Norte, "North Zone (neighborhood)") is an official neighborhood as well as a red light district located in Tijuana, Mexico. It is among the largest red-light districts in North America known for its Brothels, which present themselves in public as strip clubs and bars, similar to gentlemen's clubs in the United States. Many bars and strip clubs in Tijuana's red light district in which women are the feature entertainment also operate as brothels, which offer attached hotel rooms for short intervals of time. Many other bars, styled "lady bars", function as less explicit social clubs where prostitutes and nude sex shows are not accommodated on site, but "lady drinks" are offered at elevated prices, and freelance prostitutes look for clients. These compare in most respects to the hostess bars in Japan.


Map of Zona Norte, Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

The red light district in Tijuana is also known for highly commercialized street prostitution, particularly behind the main strip clubs on Calle Coahuilla, in a large-high traffic alley named "Primer Callejon Coahuila". Illicit drug sales are also common to the red light district, but they occur largely out of the public eye. Heroin use and theft, not common elsewhere in Mexico, are rampant here. Due to its proximity to San Diego, California, it is frequented by US citizens as well as locals. The district is also known as La Coahuila for the name of the primary avenue that runs through it.

"At WORK" Zona Norte Tijuana Red Light /Zona Roja


Two street prostitutes in Zona Norte wearing a white long sleeves, black vest, checkered mini skirt, and high socks

Zona Norte is bordered by Downtown Tijuana (Zona Centro) on the south, Zona Río on the east, San Diego and the Mexico–United States border on the north, and colonia Castillo on the west. Politically, the Zona Norte neighborhood is part of the Delegación Centro (Central Borough). Tijuana's red light district itself, encompasses just a couple of blocks within Zona Norte.

The unofficial boundaries of the red light district extend from Avenida Revolucion to Av. Miguel F. Martinez, east to west, and from Baja California to Calle Primera, north to south. The focal point of the red light district, however, is the core block bordered by Calle Coahuila on the north, and Primer Callejon Coahuila on the south.


Prostitution is permitted in Tijuana's red light district, designated a Zona de tolerancia, or "tolerance zone". Legal prostitution within the city requires sex workers to obtain a permit and be subjected to monthly health checkups. Brothels in Tijuana, many of them modeled on strip clubs and hostess clubs, must also conform to certain health regulations, such as standards of cleanliness, fixed operating hours and be placed a regulated distance from schools or day-care centers.

In addition to established brothels, there are prostitutes who work outside on the "callejones" or alleys and are referred to as paraditas, Spanish for "the standing girls", for the habit of standing on the streets to advertise their services. Paraditas have been regarded as part of Tijuana's cultural history, and attempts to force the women off the streets to curb such public advertising have proven unpopular and unsuccessful. These street workers are either illegal prostitutes who do not have permits, or legal prostitutes who simply prefer the relatively quiet environment of the street to the loud music and smoky atmosphere of the bars.


Prostitution of children is a problem in Tijuana's Zona Norte, both in the form of voluntary acts as well as illegal child trafficking. Voluntary prostitution by children, often referred to as survival sex in order to obtain a warm meal or a place to sleep for the night is prevalent in the area. Often these children are smuggled across the border into San Diego and other nearby areas.

Michael Hemmingson's ethnographic study, Zona Norte: The Post-Structural Body of Erotic Dancers and Sex Workers in Tijuana, San Diego, and Los Angeles, found that many of these girls lie about their age, saying they are 19-22, and do not work the streets, but special brothels. The study suggests much of trafficking claims are exaggerated by organizations with political, moral, and religious agendas.

Young boys are also often recruited as prostitutes, sometimes as early as age 8. This forced prostitution tends to cater more to pedophiles from the United States.

Illicit drug sales are prevalent in Zona Norte, and consequently there is a significant police presence there.


Zona Norte, Tijuana Wikipedia