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Art & Social Space
The Flight of Culture: Creating a Cultural Economy at the Border
by Susana Bautista

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Exhibition of Roberto Rosique at CECUT

Installation of Mauricio Dias at border crossing

Installation of Valeska Soares at Playas de Tijuana

Border Identity
The border region has often referred to by scholars as a temporary, migratory space devoid of a concrete identity because of the hybridity of its cultural influences and demographics. Most border cities enjoy a stronger relationship with their foreign neighbors across the border than with their own countries for simple geographic reasons. Tijuana has historically been even more isolated from central Mexico because of the fact that the entire state of Baja California is a peninsula surrounded by water on three sides, with the United States on its northern border.

Globalization theorist David Harvey refers to the border as an "essentialized place" and a "space of flows." This fluidity, created by the constant flow of migration, becomes an integral part of Tijuanaí­s mutable identity and a hindrance to creating an enduring one. Tijuanaí­s population boom was caused by migration from the rest of Mexico, some looking for jobs in the strong northern economy, but most simply looking for an easy way to cross the border. "A huge influx of newcomers from southern Mexico in the past forty years has fast turned a dusty frontier burg into a bustling Mecca of free trade. The result: a population without deep roots and little interest in Tijuanaí­s former glories." Many migrants eventually stay in Tijuana, but their interests remain focused on the United States or their villages, not on their newly adopted home of Tijuana.

Maria Castillo-Curry, a preservation scholar at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte (College of the Northern Border) in Tijuana, was quoted as saying that, "One of the problems in Tijuana is that they are always searching for identity — what it means to be tijuanense." Tijuana is constantly (re)creating its image due to its reputation as a place to drink and gamble that began in the 1920s during the period of U.S. prohibition. To create a positive image for foreign tourists and investors, as well as for its diverse group of inhabitants, it remains critical for Tijuana to actively shape its civic identity. However, if it does not become aware of and act upon certain local and global changes — the increasing number of artists in the region, the lack of commercial spaces, scant private support for the arts, globalization of the cultural economy — there is a risk that Tijuana will unintentionally develop an identity inconsistent with its lofty social and economic aims.

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