Sunday, January 26, 2020

Reading Tijuana through the voices of people who love it

After my first visit to Tijuana in October of 2017 I became obsessed with the city, and I wanted to find other people who shared my obsession. Surely I could not be the only person who realized how remarkable of a place this was? And I was not. Writers, poets, philosophers, and scholars have all been writing about Tijuana for decades.
This strange town and its history have not escaped the attention of artists and creatives.

So when I returned from my trip I went about trying to get my hands on every book ever written about Tijuana. My search took me through academic essays, exposes, novellas, short stories, and poetry. And I devoured it all.

Tijuana is unique. It does not have the broad appeal of a city like Paris, a place that has always drawn creatives of all types to both live in and write about the city simultaneously. Tijuana is also unlike Tangier, a city that attracted many creative people during a certain era, but is seldom written about or characterized in literature.

The people interested in Tijuana - interested enough to write about it - all share one trait: a feeling of not belonging anywhere. They are a border town within themselves, navigating multiple cultures and identities. I got this sense from all of them, whether  Mexican nationals, Americans, or Europeans. Whether they were scholars or poets. 

Here is some of the best of the writing about Tijuana:

"There are many Tijuanas. Each one of them is half myth, half temporarily out of service."
- Heriberto Yepez, Tijuana Dreaming

“I think maybe if I walk the streets where someone was afraid, where an entire city was afraid, I’ll maybe understand the fear a little better. This is the grand fiction of tourism, that bringing our bodies somewhere draws that place closer to us, or we to it. It’s a quick fix of empathy. We take it like a shot of tequila, or a bump of coke from the key to a stranger’s home. We want the inebriation of presence to dissolve the fact of difference.”
-       VICE 2013 

“Tijuana blurs. Once I leave, I’m eager to talk about it – the way you’re eager to talk about a dream when you wake up, afraid it will dissolve if you don’t pin the details to their places, sketch a path between absurdities.”
-      - VICE 2013

"In my lifetime, I have not felt a love as profound as the confusing passion that I feel for Tijuana, an obsession that does not preclude criticism and which more accurately provokes sudden repudiation. Tijuana elicits a crazy love, a narcotic love. Tijuana is addictive."

- Heriberto Yepez, Tijuana Dreaming

“Sometimes the city fucks on the first date, and sometimes it doesn’t. But always, always, we wake up in the morning and find we didn’t know it at all.”
 -       VICE 2013

"We come to Tijuana from everywhere, the difference is that some of us came first and others later."
- Martin de la Rosa, Tijuana Dreaming

"For the deceased poet Eduardo Arellano, Tijuana rather than “a no-place is the place of saturation. As such, it accepts and continually incorporates foreign elements, because, in fact, it would seem that nothing is foreign to the city. And a particular ambiguity arises within this incredible abundance of humanity that gives places like this city a feeling of perversity. The ambiguity makes these places exceptionally favorable to diverse expression of the human, ranging from happiness to art."
Tijuana Dreaming, 27

"Tijuana and San Diego are not in the same historical time zone. Tijuana is poised at the beginning of the industrial age, a Dickensian city with palm trees. San Diego is a postindustrial city of high impact plastic and desperate dieting."
- Richard Rodriguez, Tijuana Dreaming  47

"To live here is to return to the greatest myth of all myths, to be required to profess - before certain visitors, certain neighbors, certain experts - a second rate esotericism…"
- Heriberto Yepez, Tijuana Dreaming,  49

"Write something about the city and you will soon be addicted to her self-deception."
- Heriberto Yepez, Tijuana Dreaming,  49

"To live on the Border is to reside in the middle of an unexpected theology. An embezzled ontology. The suspicion that all this will soon be either less or more than a city, the laboratory of what is to come."
Tijuana Dreaming, 50

"Tijuana is a combination of extreme situations. Perhaps it is the most reliable proof that we could survive the apocalypse." 
Tijuana Dreaming, 51

"Coming to Tijuana on an intellectual tour assumes the old concept that walking in the streets can provide us with a special gnosis. In this sense, visiting Tijuana to write about Tijuana is a nostalgia that makes sense." 
- Tijuana Dreaming, 59

“Tijuana has more to do with science fiction now than with Mexican history books.” - 
- Torolab , Tijuana Dreaming62

“Tijuana has the look of a set design, an ephemeral set-up, a location where endless movies and simulacra will be shot, but where nothing will actually happen.” 
- Guillermo Fadanelli, Tijuana Dreaming 62

"Tijuana is like a mirage, only there for the person who desires to see her and is able to visit her. For the majority of people, though, she is transparent, she doesn’t exist." 
Tijuana Dreaming, 63

"Writing about a place “reveals as much about ourselves as it does about the worlds represented.” 
Tijuana Dreaming. 118

"Tijuana as an outpost posits a cardinal rule for the Middle World: “you can only survive and move forward by continuing to invent yourself.” 
- Breytenbach, Tijuana Dreaming122

"Shameless exhibition has turned this area into a hotel with no doors where nothing is off limits." 
-  Tijuana Dreaming, 216

"Promiscuity is seductive - the cosmopolitan boredom, the lack of etiquette, a studied disinterest in anyone else’s life, the scant violence despite the sinister surroundings." 
 Tijuana Dreaming  216

 “Border is form, and as a consequence, also art.” 
- Claudio Magris,  Tijuana Dreaming 216

"In terms of ideology, Tijuana is a nightmare.
To live here is to be a character, because at the border
There are no inhabitants, only archetypes. The border doesn’t have
Life: it has metaphysics - listen to its thing."
- Heriberto Yepez, Tijuana Dreaming 219

"I love TJ, for thousands of reasons….for being creative in spite of its precariousness and for pushing on in spite of tremendous neglect…for its bar-hopping nights and its obvious social contradictions, for its incredible audacity and its obvious ingenuity dealing with everything foreign."
Tijuana Dreaming, 307

"Why have so many people said so much about Tijuana? I think it is because Tijuana has become a symbol representing fears and subconscious desires."
Tijuana Dreaming 57

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