Fundacion Esperanza de Mexico

Fundacion Esperanza de Mexico 
Building Hope and Homes for low-income communities in Tijuana

Click on the image to go to FEM website

It’s been 4 years now that I have been part of a great organization in which I truly believe in…Fundacion Esperanza de Mexico (FEM). FEM has been working in very low-income neighborhoods in the city of Tijuana, creating community ties through self-built housing projects. In a city where most of the labor force works in the manufacturing industry there is a great need for reliable and well-built housing specifically around the many industrial parks that attract laborers from as far south as Central America. 

FEM first task is to do a detailed community surveys of the areas where it will begin to work, this way it is able to target the most disenfranchised families as well identifying the prospective leaders within the community. In this manner the help FEM provides can reach interested groups of community members who desire to improve their way of life and at the same time allowing to put in place a program that can have a long lasting effect in the neighborhood.

The next steps of the program entails the creation of a self-organized and managed construction fund where  individual members of the community deposit as much money as they can, later FEM helps the families to obtain a federal subsidy that pays for almost half of the homes and allows the families to pay off the credit they received from the fund in two to three years. This process requires approximately 8 to 10 months before the construction of the first home is built. Some community funds are now in their tenth year and have enough money to continue the program on their own and sometimes are able to lend seed money to new upcoming funds.

During the time the funds are being organized, a participating family is chosen to be the first one to build a module. A module is how FEM works; they come in 3 different unit dimensions that in the future can be connected or stacked to create an entire home even a two level house. Because the loan and subsidy of the federal government the family pays off the module very quickly and is able to continue in the program and begin construction of a second or third module according to a plan laid out with FEM in the initial phase of design with the family. The building material is a mortar-less concrete block that is easy to fabricate and build with. The families learn to make their own blocks, encouraging community participation and producing a block that is lower in cost than what the market offers.

Once the blocks are ready and the first inspection to the plots is made construction can begin. It is important to note that FEM only requirement for a family to participate in the program is that they have legal ownership of the land or are in the process of getting a title. Part of the construction of the house is a collaborative process as well, FEM gets help from many organized groups that come to Tijuana from the United States and abroad to help in the construction of the homes. Many of these groups are young high school and university students as well as older professionals or faith based groups. They come to FEM and Tijuana not only to build houses but also to foster global citizenship, international awareness and a gratifying personal experience.

In solidarity, after the home or module is done the family cooks a great meal for the volunteer groups. The unit then is ready to be personalized, painted and inhabited to later grow as the family requires and envisions their future home!

If you would like to help and/or get involved please visit FEM webpage at www.esperanzademexico.org there you can find the email contact for more information or donate through paypal and help build a better future for the communities in our program!


The Third Way
By Rene Peralta

Can we define community, as only a group of people who live in a particular place? Or can we consider that within a community there exists a network of actors who participate in the economic sustainability of a place. Therefore we might say that a community is a place/space where social relations between different actors are formed. And our cities are interrelated group of communities working together to produce a more equitable, just, and sustainable, (in all its meanings) place to co-inhabit.

As geographer David Harvey explains, we all have a right to the city:

“ The question of what kind of city we want cannot be divorced from that of what kind of social ties, relationship to nature, lifestyle, technologies and aesthetic values we desire. The right to the city is far more than the individual liberty to access urban resources: it is a right to change ourselves by changing the city”

This past Wednesday June 03 the New Barrio Logan Community Plan was defeated in the polls, an election portrayed as a battle between community and industry. The essential conclusion of the plan was to rezone the area and create a buffer zone between industry and residents as well as a to restrict new industrial spaces within the community. The most important argument for some resident and environmental groups was a demand to protect the integrity of the health of the community. Currently this area one of the top 5% polluted areas in the State of California and within the City of San Diego it has the highest emergency room visits due to respiratory problems, most of them asthma attacks.

Barrio Logan is also home to industries that are vital to San Diego’s economy. According to the National University System Institute for Policy Research this community is an Industry Oriented District with approximately 200 industries and has 7,750 employees, 11,200 indirect and induced jobs and annually producing 1.05 billion dollars in sales. Unfortunately, these industries produce high greenhouse gas emissions that prevent the community from being desirable place to live.

Not only is the community not a healthy desirable environment to live in, it also has a significant low income population, the median income in “The Barrio” is $25,044 compared to the $69,165 in the rest of San Diego County. Only 15% of Barrio Logan citizens own a home.

If we redefine the conflict between residents and industry as challenges and community assets, rather than problems, we will find that Barrio Logan and Logan Heights are communities well served by public transportation with a possibility of becoming strong TOD, (Transit Oriented Developments). It can take advantage of a strong giving industrial economy, environmental effective recycling centers and future educational/trade training centers. Future plans need to foster strategic collaborations for increasing educational opportunities by creating an alliance with the local industry as well as identifying areas for the development of TODs. These challenges need to be interpreted as assets, because there is a possibility for them to work as a network of actions that can lower GHG emissions within the community and beyond.

Future community plans must favor the participation of industry in the redevelopment of the community. There are already state initiatives that could allow for certain protocols to be put in place and begin a best practices approach to GHG emission and pollution from industrial activities. Local industries that pollute can redirect their funds from state funds to specific community efforts to reduce co2 emissions. In Barrio Logan, over 40% of the population is between 18 and 24 years of age in need for jobs and training in the many technical trades needed by local industries of the community. Local businesses can become partners in training the work force of tomorrow right in Barrio Logan. All types of industry need to adhere to better sustainable operational practices and consider creating job-training centers within the community. Transit Oriented Developments are also part of California’s budget and focused to serve disadvantaged communities such as Barrio Logan, where most of the housing stock is single-family detached residences, a situation that inhibits the building of affordable, dense and mix-use housing for the working class. In the educational realm there are already steps being taken by public and private institutions to expand educational opportunities in the near future, such as the non-profit Los Angeles based Woodbury University that already has been in the community for six years offering accredited undergraduate degrees in architecture. Finally, local businesses like recycling centers need to find a way to "green" themselves and stop the polluted runoff with imaginative design schemes of their existing facilities.

The potential exists and the economic incentives are available to assist industry in becoming a partner for a healthy community in Barrio Logan. Innovative ecological design opportunities and technology is there to accomplish it. This approach can transfer development efforts from the grip of a few privileged groups and implement a democratic process, producing opportunities for a struggling and neglected community. We need to counter attack displacement and gentrification of one of San Diego’s most diverse and culturally rich communities with the opportunity to create equity and promote better educational prospects. The urban crisis in Barrio Logan should be a concern to all San Diegans including private industries and foster collaborative alliances between all actors of the community.

Rene Peralta is Director of the Landscape+Urbanism Graduate Program at Woodbury University, San Diego, a non profit academic institution located in the heart of Barrio Logan. He is also an Instructor in the UCSD Urban Studies Program

Images by Arturo Tovar, graduate student in Landscape+Urbanism from Woodbury University, San Diego.


Reportaje Especial: Valle de las Palmas, una Ciudad Fantasma | stmedia

Reportaje Especial: Valle de las Palmas, una Ciudad Fantasma | stmedia
haz click al link para ver el reportaje

foto: sintesis.tv

Una de las ideas que aquí comparto y que han trabajado con los alumnos de la Maestría en Urbanismo+Paisaje de Woodbury University, San Diego es repensar este lugar en un valle de tecnología binacional, donde se le de énfasis a la educación incluyendo mas universidades y a la integración empresas locales y foráneas de tecnología y fabricación. Lo único que mantiene a esta zona con poca vitalidad es la UABC, universidad que puede ser el ancla que inicie la transformación de la zona. Para poder re-habitar las viviendas se necesitaría ofrecer a venta o crédito a los trabajadores, alumnos y profesores de lo que pudiese ser un centro tecnológico importante para el futuro de Tijuana. Sabemos que la maquila seguirá siendo la industria mas importante en Tijuana y se necesita invertir en mejorar la calidad y educación de la mano de obra como también crear una generación de creadores locales. Se pueden diseñar nuevos modelos de parques industriales que no solo sean centros de empleo de mano de obra barata, pero que también generen nuevas tecnologías en los ramos de la medicina, electrónica e industria aeroespacial. Y es aquí y ahora cuando se puede tomar este fracaso de ciudad sustentable y crear el “silicon valley” fronterizo sin destruir uno de los paisajes mas bellos de Baja California.


50 years of Maquilapolis revisited!
This Spring semester in the Woodbury University's Landscape + Urbanism Graduate Studio we worked on documenting the effects of industrial regions, free trade zones and smart cities across the globe (from Silicon Valley, Tijuana/San Diego, Sungdo and Panama). How can the post-industrial define itself today, as many regions and cities rely heavily on industrial production and work as their primary economy, such as Tijuana. We later worked on the difficult project of designing new industrial zones in two area of the city, using spatial mapping to understand if adjacency to markets and/or labor were the most appropriate way to localize different industries. Then we ran the script on these two sites trying to integrate education, affordable housing, and natural remediation technologies - the indifference to these factors by the industry has been the stigma of the "maquiladora" ecologies since they hit the ground in 1965.


Rene Peralta explains why it is a good idea to close Avenida Revolucion one of Tijuana most important avenue to car traffic and make it a walkable amenity for downtown!



Director Rene Peralta is interviewed by architect Paola D. Aguirre about the work being produced in the L+U program at Woodbury and his thoughts in the future of the US/MX border

Avenida Revolución’s renaissance

Director of the Woodbury University Landscape + Urbanism Master Program Rene Peralta is interviewed by Journalist Kinsee Morlan about the future of downtown Tijuana.


Revisiting Tijuana 2008- A text from the California Biennale Catalogue 2008

Tijuana’s Haunt
Rene Peralta

In Tijuana everybody seems to be a poet or a painter.
Anthem magazine (2004)1

Artistic practice in the border region has tended to be multidisciplinary in nature. The
mechanisms and infrastructures that support cultural production elsewhere are limited
or absent here, so this multidisciplinary model has been developed as a survival
mechanism, countering the lack of economic stability as well as academic and institutional
support. Economic and sociopolitical dynamics have encouraged the creation
of countless “alternative” praxes in the city of Tijuana, as artists have addressed contemporary
issues pertaining to the volatile life of the U.S.-Mexico border. The most
considerable experimentation has taken place in the realms of literature and visual art.
A search for an understanding of border identity has produced conceptual reflections
on the city from writers and academics alike, ranging from counterculture narratives to
works of postmodern theory.
The challenges that the region presents have led to an effort to reach a general or
open definition of “border” urban and social space. Néstor García Canclini became
an important influence in the rereading of social and urban space produced by an
incongruent urban visual system made up of constructions characterized by cultural
hybridity and their users. In his seminal text Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering
and Leaving Modernity, hybridity is presented as an important concept through which
we can understand the processes that create the social and spatial conditions of
the border city. Canclini explains three processes that define the hybrid condition:
the breakup and mixture of the symbolic collections that organize cultural systems, the
deterritorialization of symbolic process, and the expansion of impure genres. Processes
combining decollection and deterritorialization have changed the structure of and
relationships between image and context as well as the semantic and historical references
that tie them together. In the space of the contemporary city, the lack of urban
regulation and a hybrid architectural culture create a mismatch of styles, together with
the interaction of monuments and advertising, situating the visual order and memory
of the city in heteroclite networks. Lastly, Canclini explains tensions of deterritorialization
and reterritorialization: the loss of innate relationships among culture, geography,
and social territories and at the same time territorial relocations of new and old
symbolic productions.2

Tijuana then is an example of this great hybrid experiment wherein the notion of
authentic culture and identity is no longer credible. Within its urban form the city mixes
desires and symbols that have a relation with a simulated history of the city itself.
Through this simulacrum Tijuana defines its identity, a simulation that requires the
production of hybrid readings. Its geographical location and these abstract codes
have put in place the symbols and mechanisms for art to emerge. Heriberto Yépez, a
young writer and philosophy professor from Tijuana, has argued that Tijuana has
not been defined by hybridity but, more importantly, has throughout its history parodied concept of hybrid culture is a neoliberal trap, a hegemonic discourse that intends to
erase the differences and realities of the border. In his book Made in Tijuana, Yépez
continues his critique of hybridity, stating that its fundamental basis lies in a Hegelian
synthesis that intends to fixate and transcend the same identities that produce the mix.
The hybrid culture concept is no more than a metaphor, while the realities of the border
are asymmetrical and in constant tension. The border region for Yépez is defined by
economic and cultural disparity, fission of cultures rather than the consolidating concept
of fusion that has been an ally of the hybrid discourse: “To understand the border
we must de-Hegelize ourselves.”3
Both Canclini and Yépez endorse important artistic practices that have somehow
included the discourse of identity and culture of the U.S.-Mexico border. Some of these
practices have promoted the fusion of languages, cultural traditions, cross-cultural
identities, and other urban representations of postmodernity, as in the case of
Guillermo Gómez-Peña. In Tijuana the artists Marcos Ramirez ERRE and Jaime Ruiz Otis
have developed practices dealing with conflict that respond to the disparities and
tensions in the realms of culture, labor, and binational politics. Century 21, a project
created by Ramirez ERRE in 1994, has been important and influential in regard to
current conceptualizations of the border region and immigration, globalization, and
other factors that have been critical to the development of the Tijuana–San Diego urban
binomial. The artist re-created a dwelling typical of the ones built in the informal settlements
of the city on the esplanade of the Centro Cultural de Tijuana, designed in the
late 1970s by the renowned Mexican architects Pedro Ramirez Vazquez and Manuel
Rosen Morrison, a building that represents the institutional modernism of the PRI, the
party that ruled Mexico for more than seventy years. Century 21 intended to decontextualize
both structures by making apparent and visible the formal and spatiotemporal
tensions inherent in the larger context of the city and acknowledging that the concept
of the border is illustrative of the antagonism that not only haunts the U.S.-Mexico region
but also is prevalent within the local urban space of the city of Tijuana. The tectonicconfrontation found in Century 21 is analogous to the many paradoxical effects within
the city and to the dyslexic architectures that never intend to integrate into a synthesized
form or space (hybrid), but instead engage in a violent dialogue temporarily
resolved by a series of negotiations that are necessary for survival and coexistence.
The work of Ramirez ERRE brings to the fore interesting issues and questions for
architectural/urban practices to consider. Can we consider an urban model for the
hybrid/fission counterparts? If these two primordial elements of the conceptualization
of the border region and the city of Tijuana are trajectories of contemporary city life,
can they produce spatial environments that are not only theoretical but also physical
and reproducible? There has been much interest in reproducing specific urban
phenomena, such as squatter settlements and informal structures made from recycled
construction materials and other nontraditional building materials. Yet somehow
this interest has not been based on a profound study of the economic and social tensions
that produce these phenomena. In the past decade we have witnessed mere
simulations and the creation of the myth of a system that is inherently pluralistic and
characterized by spatial heterogeneity and that seems to magically work and become
prescriptive once it is decontextualized—an exemplary postmodern idea. The issues
of hybridity and other conceptualizations of the border are part of a political discourse
yet are difficult to interpret as prescriptive urban-planning solutions. As Nezar AlSayyad
has written: “The assumption that hybrid environments simply accommodate or
encourage pluralistic tendencies or multicultural practices should be turned on its
head. Hybrid people do not always create hybrid places and hybrid places do not
always accommodate hybrid people. All that can be hoped for at the beginning of the
21st century are environments that harbor the potential for growth and change and
peoples who may find the possibility of adapting and adopting otherness as a legitimate
form of self-identification.”4
In the last eight years the Tijuana-based architecture firm Generica has been experimenting
with a sort of bottom-up theoretical field in which the practice expands and
contracts as it absorbs urban implications. In the border region mechanisms of critical
practice such as new forms of technology (be they material, computational, or academic)
are not always available or economically feasible. What is at hand is the social
and cultural dynamics of the border and its urban space. Generica as a practice tries to
integrate methods of analysis that can therefore react specifically to a varied realm of
conceptual and real circumstances. In many cases the process of production includes
many non architectural techniques, such as film, multidisciplinary research, site-specific
installation, and writing. It is between these alternate and/or alternative mediums
that the firm integrates conceptual dialogues, such as the ones discussed here, with the
intent to identify the concepts that best describe the conditions of the Tijuana–San
Diego urban border. In a project titled Contain(mex)3=Contiene(mex)3 (2006), Generica
tapped into two sources of production, one industrial and the other conceptual. The
installation was part of the exhibition Strange New World: Art and Design from Tijuana
(2006) at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, and was constructed of modular
laser-cut wood panels whose designs mimic the familiar patterns used on the metalsecurity screens that cover many windows and doors in the border region. The objective
was to use the technological apparatus (in this case a digital laser cutter used to produce
mechanical parts for assembly plants across the border) employed by the
manufacturing industries of the free-trade border zone—a direct implementation of
skills and technology reserved for foreign industries taking advantage of cheap labor.
The pattern laser-cut on the panels was derived from a study of the security screens
that proliferate in residential and commercial structures throughout the city—a symbol
of fear as well as an aesthetic element that has now become a standard architectural
feature recognizable by all. The piece was not intended to mimic and decontextualize a
house inside the museum, emulating Ramirez ERRE’s Century 21, but took the form of
a cube whose configuration adapted to the visual, atmospheric, and spatial constraints
of the gallery. The result was not blatantly political but was intended to reconstruct,
at least in a phenomenological sense, the space of the border threshold.
The concept of hybridity has become an important topic in the history of postmodern
border art. Artists have tended to address issues of identity and multiculturalism
though arguments for or against it, and recently writers such as Yépez have critically
engaged the tactics of border art and its urgent dilemmas within the context of the
border as a site of asymmetrical globalization. In regard to alternative urban and architectural
practices, I would like to think that they exist or that they might be mere
fantasy in a city of myths. Tijuana is a city where 50 percent of all residential construction
is of illicit origin and self-constructed.5 In the last twenty years the east side of
Tijuana has grown beyond its critical mass, and housing conditions have moved from
self-built favelas to a phenomenon of overnight density—drag-and-drop suburbs are
becoming the normative housing strategy for the working class. A vast accumulation
of housing units have been left behind to develop into a city through their own
willpower. What is fascinating is the determination of the population to appropriate
urbanism and model it through their own idiosyncrasies. If a certain hybridism
characterized the informal self-built shacks, these mono-logical constructions include
seriality, production-line planning, and nonplace iconography as part of their pedigree. Architects have had a passive role in the construction of the urban realm. Major
urban developments have been made through forceful intervention, foreign and
national, in the name of decodifying the Mexican border with a national modern style
or marking it as a place of architectural decontextualization, as in the case of the Agua
Caliente Casino, designed in a Moorish/mission revival style for the mob by a San
Diego teenage draftsman named Wayne McAllister in 1928.6 Since its conception, this
city that the border created has had episodes of urban consolidation as well as
instances of rampant and irregular development. Art practices have evolved very efficiently
within the codes and concepts that define the urban border. It seems that urban
spatial practices still need to mature into elaborate multifunctional networks that can
find resources and mechanisms for a sense of criticality and adaptation. It may be that
in Tijuana everybody is (only) a poet or a painter, at least for now.

1. Excerpted in Fiamma Montezemolo, Rene Peralta, and Heriberto Yépez, Here Is Tijuana! (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2006), 111.
2. Néstor García Canclini, Culturas híbridas: Estrategias para entrar y salir de la modernidad (Mexico City: Grijalbo, 1990); published in English as Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity, trans. Christopher L. Chiappari and Silvia L. López
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995).
3. Heriberto Yépez, Made in Tijuana (Mexicali: Instituto de Cultura de Baja California, 2005), 33.
4. Nezar AlSayyad, “Prologue: Hybrid Culture/Hybrid Urbanism: Pandora’s Box of the ‘Third Place,’” in Hybrid Urbanism: On the Identity Discourse and the Built Environment, ed. Nezar AlSayyad (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2001), 16.
5. Tito Alegria, Legalizando la ciudad: Asentamientos informales y procesos de regularización en Tijuana (Tijuana: El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2005), 119.
6. See Chris Nichols, The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister (Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith, 2007).


Balboa 1915 -2015

Cuando visitas el Parque Balboa en San Diego, California estas en un lugar que se construyo para celebrar la apertura del Canal del Panamá en 1914, por eso la exposición que inauguro el parque se llamo “1915 Panama-California Exposition”. Los edificios fueron construidos copiando estilos de España y México como el California Building que tiene un domo parecido al de Santa Prisca in Taxco. Los panameños construyeron una colonia que se llamo Barrio de la Exposición que fue un fracaso por que la celebración de San Diego opaco el festejo. En agosto el canal cumple 100 años y celebra mas de un millón de cruces sin embargo los panameños solo conocen el canal desde 1999 cuando Estados Unidos les dio el dominio del mismo. En San Diego

Se celebrara los 100 años del parque – recordaran el porque del Parque Balboa? O sabrán quien fue Balboa?

Landscape Urbanism Woodbury University in Panama

En esta semestre los alumnos de la maestría de Landscape+Urbanism en Woodbury están investigando regiones urbanas a través de su infraestructura e impacto que tiene sobre la percepción y forma de la ciudad.

El paisaje o lo que llamamos “landscape” no es una cuestión de estética, si no de operatividad, como decie Antoine Picon “ As a consequence, landscape appears as a production more evidently than it has in the past.”

En los cátedras del semestre, Tito Alegría apoya con análisis de localización espacial de la industria y Benjamin Bratton guía a los alumnos a entender como la tecnología esta cambiando la relación entre el espacio físico y éter informático.

Ya estamos aceptando solicitudes para el 2014-15! Click Aqui!


L+U in Panama 2014

L+U is getting ready for their upcoming trip to Panama next week. Collaborating with the great people ofhttp://www.isthmus.edu.pa/ISTHMUS/inicio.php Isthmus University, we will be exploring the social and economic impact of the 100 year old canal opened in 1915. As you know, most of Balboa Park in San Diego was built to commemorate the opening of the canal with the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition!

Applications for 2014-2015 Year are now open, visit the Landscape+Urbanism website


The Struggle to keep the Alamar Creek a natural amenity for Tijuana!

L+U director Rene Peralta, interview for Milenio News on Baja's authorities project to cover with concrete the Alamar Creek, the last tributary of the Tijuana River .Woodbury Architecture SanDiego  Click Here: Milenio Baja California

Images: Washington University in St. Louis - Tijuana Studio