Tijuana is not really a city that is dedicated to the nourishment of art, sure it has a couple of museums and events dedicated to art, but in an industrial/business driven city like this (like many other cities) it’s all done as a business investment. Basically meaning that with the right people, your art will thrive and your investor’s wallets will too. This guarantees your survival with the mainstream, but it doesn’t necessarily provide a source for growth and maturity in whatever art form you choose, it only provides you a sure sale as long as you stick to what sold in the first place. As for the rest of the masses that truly and genuinely seek to practice art for art’s sake, they have to scramble for the crumbs like pigeons in a park. It’s a hard world out there for art.
That is not to say that there are no outlets where art can be art and not a product, here in Tijuana there is a (mostly) underground art-scene that takes it’s stage wherever it can find it. There’s paint, performance, dance, music, graffiti, literature, photography, and even theater. Two places in particular seem to be more stable/permanent spaces for this scene: Pasaje Rodriguez and Pasaje Gomez, two slightly hidden passages that a run between Downtown Tijuana’s third and fourth street, divided by Calle Revolución. Both passages are slightly hard to find because, well, they are passages and there is a whole lot of things happening outside that distract from spotting the space between buildings. But it’s not impossible, plus it’s part of their charm. These two passages are brothers in a sense, and like most brothers one tends to overshadow the other. A main reason for this is that Pasaje Rodriguez is the eldest and has garnered a more constant fame for the scene it attracts. Another reason is that Pasaje Gomez appears to be more of an introvert. So since Rodriguez can handle himself just fine, I’m here to shine a light on Gomez.
Pasaje Gomez is a conundrum, but it’s my kind of conundrum. Four to five years ago it had a sort of rebirth that was welcomed with the majority of the shop space being rented out and attention-gathering events taking pace mostly every couple of months. My girlfriend and I actually participated in a couple of them with some of my photography, and it was fun. In comparison to Pasaje Rodriguez, Gomez has the advantage of letting more light in, so when things happened there they actually LOOKED very artsy and hip and welcoming. After a couple or more years in this fashion, it seemed like Pasaje Gomez wasn’t agreeing with it. Less and less people began to visit, events grew bigger and looked for space elsewhere, businesses began to close their doors or move, and slowly but surely the place became a ghost-passage. At least only to those who didn’t really know it. Gomez seems to fit the bohemian trope quite perfectly (whereas his brother is more hipster): it likes to be away from the spotlight, with random and epic spurs of creativity and expression, and most significantly it’s penniless. I don’t know why it would choose to be this way, but I guess we’ll call it keeping true to his black sheep nature. Some claim that there is no life left here, but I beg to differ. While it’s true that the shops are few and some have inconsistent schedules, the passage comes alive to those who seek it.
One coffee shop/boutique in particular is on in few of the surviving drives of Pasaje Gomez: Gypsy Cats. Think of them as Gomez’s spirit animal, they’ve got the whole bohemian vibe and ambition packaged in the shape of a coffee shop. Six days a week, from the afternoon to for as long as they can keep the passage open (usually around 7pm, there are rules regarding the gates) they open their doors, set up their chairs and tables, and patiently await their customers. They’ve hosted and organized various events already ranging from music presentation, dance presentation, a henna workshop and various bazars; one in particular was where we participated with Postcards from Mexico. Over time they’ve garnered a small circle of frequent customers, but it’s abundance cannot be compared to other cafes or even Pasaje Rodriguez as a whole for they offer a different kind of experience.
Personally I go to Pasaje Gomez not necessarily to meet up with people or to go shopping (unless I see something I REALLY like), but for the peaceful yet urban ambiance we need to fuel creativity. You walk down the stairs, the ruckus of the city is diminished to barely there, then walk past what once was the famous La Especial restaurant, by then you can probably hear the music coming out of Studio Moeller, and you can keep walking and walking, slowly as there is no rush, and just take in the passage in all it’s shameless glory. This is why I would disagree with anyone who claims that this passage is not a success, because although technically it’s not a commercial success, it succeeds in nestling the whispers of creativity that otherwise get lost in the spotlight. The energy is there, the scene is there, the presence is there… just not as evident as his older brother, Pasaje Rodriguez.
True, for anything to be able to survive in this harsh world income needs to be made and rent needs to be payed, so although at times the rules by which we agree to exist in this society may not be fair, they are a essential. But this doesn’t mean we need to give up our basic nature when it comes to art. Places like Pasaje Rodriguez and Gomez guarantee us a bit more freedom from these social restraints, but we can only keep these little spaces of freedom if we also pitch in to help it’s survival. In other words, a cup (or two) of coffee a day, keeps the landlord away!