Tucked away inside a callejon off Avenida Revolución, Pasaje Rodriguez is easy to miss. But slow down and look, and you will see that local artists have brought this this space to life.
I first visited Pasaje Rodriguez late one night last January. My friend James was planning an event in the pasaje, trying to describe the space to me. And not knowing Tijuana at all, I was thinking, “What? Where is this place?
We parked on Calle Carillo Puerto (3rd) and crossed Avenida Revolución, passed by the enormous stone and red neon facade of the Caliente casino, took note of the sexy Viagra girl manequin in front of the of the nearby pharmacy, resisted the pleas of a couple of waiters offering half price beer, and suddenly we had arrived.
Inside, we wandered along the dark corridor, noting the names and logos of a few recently opened shops and galleries. Most shops were either vacant or closed for the night, but we were drawn to the lovely green facade sand wood frame facade of one gallery, called Baja Republika. Inside, a group of ten friends was gathered around a bar, drinking wine and sharing tapas. They eagerly invited us to join them, and soon I found myself singing along as one of the guests plucked his guitar and sang the nueva trova hit by Silvio Rodriguez “Ojalá.” I felt like I was home, among old friends, even though we had just met. And I think it’s this sense of family and community that gives Pasaje Rodriguez its charm and appeal.
Pasaje Rodriguez is one of hundreds of historic “callejon” or “arcade” style commercial centers built along Avenida Revolución during the second wave of commercial development of downtown Tijuana in the 1950s. Many of the shops have charming architectural features, rediscovered when local artists and entreprenuers began to remodel the spaces to open wine bars, galleries, and bookstores.
Efren Parra, owner of Baja Republika, uses a lot of natural materials like stone, metal and reclaimed wood in his space, giving it a cozy organic feel. While remodeling, Parra explained, he removed the cheap merchandise racks of the curio shop days. Behind a hunk of plywood he discovered a gorgeous vintage 192os oak and glass door.
After two years of hard work, the space has come a long way. Its off-the-street location creates a relaxed atmosphere where friends can wander freely with a Hefeweizen or Malbec in hand from the gallery & cafe Studio 2287. Here architect and entrepreneur Francisco Garcia Rodriguez sells his own artisanal beer Teodora and shows photography and painting by local artists.
Galleries feature photography, contemporary art, graffiti, fine art oil paintings, and sculpture, and on any given weekend, you will find poetry readings, workshops and classes on engraving and printing, art openings, hip hop and live graffiti painting. Teenagers and 20-somethings hang out here with older, more established artists and photographers, giving the space a hip, bohemian vibe.
Espacio Freelance owners Ximena Jasso and Ruben Franco Notch rent an enormous space in the second level of Pasaje Rodriguez. Both have to work Freelance into their spare time. Ximena works at COLEF doing publicity and communications for the university. And when Ruben’s not preparing a presentation on the Italian Baroque for his art class, he’s offering workshops on DSLR cameras and photoshop for beginners. A group of local photographers meet here on Thursdays twice a month to share and critique their photographs.
Currently, artist Antonio Oceguera-Figueroa is showing his work at Mundo Lara gallery. The show, titled “Refundación mítica de Tijuana,” is a series of oil paintings on wood depicting various well-known locales in the city of Tijuana and reimagining their mythical roots.
Oaxacan artist TEAK, who recently moved to Tijuana from Oaxaca and is a member of the ASARO collective, opened his show last night at Envogart Galeria, with a series of richly textured paintings using wax, ink, and paint on wood.
Shows are continuing at Nodo Galeria, Hijas del Cuarto Oscuro, Antonio Escalante’s Galeria Círculo, Luis Díaz de Tecui Art Design, Galeria Montmartre, and others.
This month, Pasaje Rodriguez celebrated its second anniversary, with events and openings every weekend. Yesterday, on Friday afternoon, I saw a group of little 6-year-olds laughing in delight as they watched a puppet show in front of the gallery Hijas del Cuarto Oscuro. Later at night, hundreds gathered to listen to the local band Pucha Lucha play ska tunes, dressed in lucha libre masks and black leather and tights. As they burst into a cover of “I wanna be sedated,” an elderly man joined in, dancing across the floor with a cigarette hanging from his lips.
Yeah, I can feel right at home here.
Click here for my PHOTOS on FLICKR
Click Pasaje Rodriguez for more information on events. Te esperamos!