Tijuana is home to singer Carlos Santana, painter Benjamin Serrano, artist Jaime Ruiz Otis, writer Federico Campbell, graphic designer Luis Eduardo Diaz, actor Oscar Uriel, guitarist Tony Perry, multidisciplinary artist Antonio Escalante, sculptors Daniel Ruanova and Mely Barragan, and Chef Marcella Valladolid. It is also home to hundreds of stereotypically struggling and starving artists. Young and old alike who have an ability, a gift, to express the raw emotions and struggles of their people through artistic expression.
Throughout its 126 year history, Tijuana has welcomed creative expression and artistic talent. During its 1920’s heyday, Tijuana and the Agua Caliente casino complex served as the gateway for young talent to connect with Hollywood bigwigs. In the late 1980’s economic upswing, Tijuana’s artists found monetary support through the buyers that crossed into its city limits. Today, the city and its artists are slowly emerging from a 20+ year drought. A small, tight knit community once struggling to survive is currently experience a resurgence, both in outside interest and monetary compensation.
In 2010, a joint venture between the Rodriguez family (the owners of the Pasaje Rodriguez space) and the city government decided to take a small, run down part of downtown Tijuana and turn it into an artist colony. Pasaje Rodriguez, once an alley housing curios shops, was reborn as a creative space where talent could be nurtured and thrive. The Tijuana Municipal Institute of Art and Culture worked to provide grant money for supplies and basic work necessities while the Rodriguez family agreed to reduce space rental prices by 60%. The communal space provided the inspiration and nurturing that the art scene needed to produce and expose. And the artists were to provide the talent. Almost overnight, and for the first time in over two decades, the little alley was bustling with activity. Coffee shops sprung up to feed the artists souls and stomachs. Studios were open all day and welcomed those passing by to come inside to take a look at their creative process. And hope, that ever important ingredient in a society, Hope was palpable.
On April 22, 2010, Pasaje Rodriguez Arte y Diseno, became an official entity. The space, its home, dates back to 1946.
The Pasaje Rodriguez of today is different from the one in 2010. It is mature, weathered, and a bit more realistic. It is also decidedly bohemian, alternative, bursting with expression, and full of hope. That same child-like hope for the future and its possibilities is still palpable.
We have had the opportunity to spend some time at Pasaje Rodriguez in the past few weeks. We’ve walked the alley and followed the same steps as William Clauson. We’ve met musicians as they play infront of their stands, artisits inside their studios, and coffee tables that have undoubtedly heard amazing things. It is a space that needs to be felt more than just explained. The colors, the old floors, the romantic balconies… they all hint, with each step you take, of the grand talent within the alley. They also hint at the dwindling social support, the lack of citizenry interest, and the real struggle of getting an artist colony to thrive- especially in a city where many struggle to pay their own rent.
The future of the Pasaje Rodriguez is unclear. On a busy weekend evening it is easy to be inspired and believe that their voice will continue to be heard. On a Tuesday afternoon, you walk through the alley to admire the myriad of colorful murals and posters, and that’s it. But I suppose the fact that the guitar artist is playing and there’s someone painting in one of the studios means that the vision and hope for this space is still alive.
This may not be a typical travel destination, but it is certainly a space worth discovering.
Pasaje Rodriguez is a small alleyway that connects Avenida Revolucion and Avenida Constitucion. It is located between Third and Forth Street in the city’s downtown district. It is an easy and pleasant walk from the Caesars Hotel or the Tijuana archway and an equally easy walk from the Foreigners Club parking lot. You can also find them, a list of their upcoming events, and directions, on their facebook page Pasaje Rodriguez.