Davis and Monsivais - Live at the Centro Cultural Tijuana.

Last Thursday in El Centro Cultural Tijuana, Mike Davis and Carlos Monsivais conversed on the issues and situation of the border. I must say that I have enjoyed Davis books and consider his work essential as it pertains to urban studies and distopic conditions of the post-urban. In regards to Monsivais I have had a sincere respect for his work, yet I have my doubts on his analysis of Tijuana. It is apparent to me that for Monsivais Tijuana always has a folkloric element to it that is categorized more and more by a 1970’s centralized view of Tijuana, of not being truly Mexican – the same ideology that brought about the construction of the Tijuana version of Paseo Reforma in Mexico City - Paseo de Los Heroes. Interestingly enough it is during the same time that Monsivais recalls participating in a rally with Ruben Vizcaino and a group of prostitutes on Avenida Revoluvion against the bad rep of Tijuana - and the construction of Zona Rio. In his analysis or recollection this is the precise moment in time (it was his first visit to Tijuana) when a cultural awakening occurs in the city which has influenced the present literary and artistic production. I suspect that this view is a common one due to the Medias portrayal of the city. Being born in Tijuana and from a family that extends to 5 generations, I can assure you that there was cultural production before the 70’s. I suspect also that the artistic flourishing of culture now has to do more with the dilapidation of our urban culture, therefore the production deals with the embellishing of chaos and disorder.

Its it imperative to see how during the 40’s and 50’s the city had an established urban culture – meaning that we had zones where life “in” the city went hand in hand with cultural activities, creating an urban environment envious of many cities today. Beyond donkeys and prostitutes we had; jazz, bebop, big band, jaialai, bullfights, horseracing, car racing, cinema, cabaret, and many other activities that today are obsolete or have disappeared by our own negligence, a negligence that we now represent as our contemporary cultural manifestation.

Mike presented his perspective toward the north to south invasion across the border, a concurrent theme in this blog specifically in “Tijuana or Bust”. His contrary and always Marxist attitude of resistance constructs a well formulated scenario of the “take over” of the precious Baja California landscape by greedy developers and upper class suburbanites from the US. He remarked that the hundreds of housing developments being built in the Baja coast is a suburban model that brings theme park iconography and costs so exuberant ( compared to what Mexicans can afford ) that these gated communities will be populated by “gringos” and cleaned, serviced and landscaped by Mexicans in their own land. Therefore the invasion works both ways, yet according to Davis the worker that crosses to the North does so in search of a better way of life, while the suburbanite crossing to Mexico come to impose a secluded and capsular way of life while creating environmental havoc through land scrapping. It’s unfortunate that, having one of the most beautiful and diverse ecosystems in the world, we as architects, planners and developers of this country participate in its destruction. I agree with Davis, yet there must be a method of planning and development of the coast where tourist and citizens can enjoy the geography for generations to come.

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