Academic journal article
By Rodney, Lee
Canadian Journal of Latin American & Caribbean Studies , Vol. 37, No. 73
Josh Kun and Fiamma Montezemolo, eds., with foreword by Iain Chambers
Tijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012, xix + 387 pp.
Tijuana Dreaming: Life and Art at the Global Border is a significant anthology of recent writings on this city from the perspective of art, literature, architecture, music, and film. It is one of the most concentrated studies of the city to date: 20 wide-ranging essays and poems on Tijuana's diverse cultural ecologies connect through a shared sense that existing narratives of the city have grown tired and romanticized. The anthology also addresses a void in the existing literature on Tijuana through English translations of several texts by prominent Mexican writers, filling out gaps in the border-studies research that circulates in Anglo-American contexts.
Kun and Montezemolo aim to place Tijuana squarely within the discourse of global cities, building upon the work of Saskia Sassen and David Harvey, but they do so through the lens of the city's unique cultural production (9), an approach that complicates the standard reading of the city as the maquiladora capital of the Southwest. The editors' take on the global is not that of the "flat" world evened out by globalization but one that maps out the sharp contours of globalization's asymmetry and its expression through Tijuana's "cultural performances" and productions (8). Here the factory is a metaphor extended to the city's cultural imaginary, the maquiladora de suenos [dreams] referenced in the introduction, and more ambivalently through the first three contributions to the book. Roberto Castillo's poem opens the collection and is followed by essays from Tijuana-based writers Humberto Felix Berumen and Heriberto Yepez. These selections all work to dispel any easy ideas about Tijuana as the sign of postmodern hybridity, seeing it rather as Janus-faced, prismatic, often fictional. Yepez writes in "Tijuanologies" that to "live here is to be a character, because on the border, there are no inhabitants, just archetypes" (49). While Humberto Felix Berumen suggests that if Tijuana is the symbol of cultural postmodernity, that postmodernity is "insufficient ... belated or embryonic" (28).
In considering Tijuana as of 2012, the authors and contributors refer to the need to go beyond the familiar postmodern and often celebratory reading of Tijuana as the city of complexity, contradiction, and hybridity. Indeed Kun and Montezemolo are at pains to distinguish their collection from the now familiar cultural discourse of the 1990s, heavily influenced by Guillermo Gomez Pena and the Border Arts Workshop as well as the InSITE series of binational art exhibitions that took place between 1992 and 2005. While new ideas are often created from critical breaks with the past, most of the essays achieve a productive reconciliation with Tijuana's recent past, wrestling with the weight of the economic and cultural legacy of the 1990s rather than leaving it entirely.
If the Tijuana of the 20th century drew in literary figures like Raymond Chandler, Charles Bukowski, and Henry Miller, 21st-century Tijuana is overshadowed by Nestor Garcia Canclini's summation of the city as "one of the greatest postmodern laboratories. …