TIJUANA, Mexico – Located at a strategic point that enables it to absorb influences from both sides of the international border, Tijuana’s Casa de la Cultura (House of Culture) is celebrating 40 years of operation, during which time it has become a reserve of new talent in northern Mexico and a symbol of the connections between Mexico and the US.
Singer Julieta Venegas, soprano Monica Abrego and actress Naomy Romo are some of the figures who have passed through the doors of the building located just a kilometer (0.6 miles) from the line dividing the Mexican city from the US metropolis of San Diego.
Seated on the stairs at the front of the brick neo-Classical style building, Ramon Amezcua “Bostich” recalled how the Casa de la Cultura kindled his passion for composition and electronic music, which later fused with the “norteño” sounds produced by the Nortec Collective group.
During the 1980s, “Tijuana was a very small city and the only place to study music was here,” he said, adding that the border city “has always been a laboratory where many cultures and nations converge.”
He described how he was able to enjoy the US radio stations, since the California broadcasting towers were located on the Mexican side of the border because they could get more power there, and he also noted that the Iguanas club hosted the big bands, such as Nirvana, whom people could see for ridiculously low prices.
“All that cultural flow between the two (nations) enriched things a lot, and was reflected in the musical sphere,” the member of the Nortec Collective said.
Currently, the Casa de la Cultura is the headquarters of the Northwest Music School, which offers courses and workshops in assorted artistic disciplines and presents painting and sculpture exhibitions.
It was created as “part of a very important project by the city to launch a school where kids ... could have access to an excellent education” and it was financed both by the city government and the local residents, said Miriam Garcia, the coordinator of the Tijuana History Museum.
The building features “an influence of different visions of the world ... that are present in different construction styles and not only in the Casa de la Cultura, but also in the city’s cultural projects. It’s a very complex imagery,” Garcia said.