Most tourists won’t get the chance to crawl through a cross-border drug tunnel, but the new Casa del Tunel art museum may be the next best thing.
The project, which formally opens this weekend, is providing a new cross-border meeting point for arts and culture while also embracing the structure’s underground past. I got to know the house in its previous incarnation when I was working as a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune. Authorities found a cross-border tunnel in 2003 that started from the home and ended in a San Ysidro parking lot. A year later, I took my curious editor to the house, which appeared to us to be locked up and abandoned. Turned out it wasn’t. Soon after, authorities found the house had been broken into again by tunnel diggers tapping into the remaining sections of the passageway.
As far we know, the tunnel is now properly sealed. An opening celebration for the new museum, run by the Border Council of Arts and Culture “to create a new model at the U.S.-Mexico Border region for sustainable cultural development,” is scheduled for this Saturday, Sept. 27, at 5 p.m. You can get directions here. And when I learn more about the museum’s schedule, I’ll update this post.
***Update: It appears the museum is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday by appointment. That’s too bad because I’m sure they would get a fair amount of foot traffic if it were more accessible.
For more information on the Casa del Tunel, read this story in The San Diego Union-Tribune. as well as this one by the Associated Press that has info. on upcoming Casa events. Also, check out this video on the Union-Tribune’s web site.***
Screenshot from Border Council of Arts and Culture website
You won’t find a lot of publicity in Tijuana about the controversial art exhibit, Navajas, in which ostrich parts, images of executions, and dangling dollar bills represent the victims and conspirators of drug trafficking activities and other violent acts. The exhibit, by Rosa Maria Robles, is running through Oct. 3 at the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California.
“What I’m trying to do with Navajas isn’t to create a scandal, nor to provoke just to provoke,” she told the Tijuana weekly Zeta recently. Instead, she said, it’s to “shake up the public…because the violence is growing so terribly.” (read a story here about the most recent outbreak in Mexico’s interior.)
Robles got into a lot of heat last year when she held the original Navajas exhibit in Culiacan, Sinaloa, where she is from. She included blankets that had presumably been used to wrap up and dump victims, a practice that has become so common in border cities like Tijuana that a word was created to describe the body finds: encobijados. Robles’ blood-stained blankets were confiscated by law enforcement authorities, who wanted to know how she got them (she later replaced them with blankets decorated with her own blood). In her interview with the Tijuana weekly Zeta, Robles said she was hoping to get the original blankets back on loan for the exhibit’s future showing in Mexico City.
I get the feeling that Tijuana is understandably sensitive about airing topics like this and scaring off tourists, so I find it somewhat amazing that Navajas (which means ‘knives’ or ‘razors’ in English) is even here. As someone who has written extensively about border crime and violence (and lived in Tijuana safely for two years), I wanted to see the exhibit for myself. I learned later that it’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. If you read Spanish, you can see a copy of the Zeta article here, which includes some pictures.
Screenshot from Rosa Maria Robles’ website
I mentioned this art exhibit in a previous post, and wanted to put out a reminder to those of you who live in the area that the opening is this Saturday. It’s being put on by Adapta Project, a San Diego-based artists collective, at an oceanfront model home south of Tijuana. The exhibit includes art with cross-border themes. This looks like a great reason to venture south and see Tijuana from a different perspective. Adapta Project was offering transportation from San Diego. Check out the exhibition’s web site for more information.
In the last century, some young Americans flocked to Paris in search of meaning in the aftermath of a world war. They were part of what was dubbed the “Lost Generation” for their general dissafection with the United States at that time. They wrote and partied heavily. Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were among them.
Perhaps I risk overreaching with this parallel, but I like to think there’s some similarities with a group of young bloggers/artists from the United States who either live or spend time in Tijuana. I haven’t had the pleasure of hanging out with them, but I admire the work they are doing. Nathan Gibbs, Kinsee Morlan and Derrik Chinn all provide glimpses of life as an expatriate or visitor in this grand border city (forgive me for overlooking others who may be out there – just shout and let me know where you are). Kinsee is part of an art collective, Adapta Project, that is putting on what looks to be a fantastic art show in Tijuana later this month. Kinsee and Derrik will be showing some of their photos of Mexico at the show. In one of Derrik’s posts he highlights their photo introduction, partially-reprinted here:
“We live in Tijuana by choice. We live in Tijuana for love. And we live in Tijuana illegally… Our lives have become political statements, but we’re not trying to prove a thing. We call this city ours because here, among her people, her pockmarked streets, her anarchy, her gritty Technicolor, her humble innovation and inexhaustible persistence to grow and thrive against all odds, we feel more alive than we have anywhere else in the world. Our official status brands us as outsiders, but what we see through the camera proves the city has indeed invited us to be one of her own. Welcome to our Tijuana.”
These young voices have a lot to say and I’m looking forward to hearing and seeing more from them. Their Tijuana may not always be my Tijuana because we come with different perspectives and go with different experiences, and that’s just fine with me.