Alida Cervantes is a Mexican artist who has exhibited worldwide, including at the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art in California and the Saatchi Gallery in London, where her work will appear again next month. She gives us her view of Tijuana, where she lives and works.
My favourite view in Tijuana is from my studio downtown. It is on the third floor of a corner building, so I can see a large part of the city from different sides of the building.
I love the contrast of shabby buildings, palm trees, graffiti, utility poles and power lines. And the sky. There is nothing like the Tijuana sky and Tijuana light at different times of the day.
From my terrace, I see and hear cars passing by, street vendors calling out what they have to sell, musicians offering to play music, police cars racing by, dogs barking, and neighbours or people on the street calling out to each other.
I can also see, about a kilometre away, the border where Mexico ends and the US begins. Every morning I sit and look at the city. I connect with the vitality of the place and feel like an extension of this energy when I work.
Where to live
La Cacho — it is one of Tijuana’s older neighbourhoods and was traditionally residential. In recent years, though, one side of it has become more commercial, with many cafés, restaurants and shops opening up that are easily accessible on foot. It is very centrally located, right next to downtown, and it’s a convenient 10-minute drive to the border.
Where to have lunch
I recommend the Telefonica Gastro Park food trucks in downtown, right across from La Cacho. It is about six blocks from my studio and I eat there almost every day when I take a break from painting. The trucks are in a huge warehouse-style building that is also a brewery. My favourite stands are Tacosteño, which has seafood tacos and tostadas, and La Carmelita, which serves traditional Mexican dishes. The tostada de atún con chile from Tacosteño is very good.
Where to have coffee
Order your coffee as the beans are roasted right in front of you at Cafe Sur a Norte, a short walk from the Gastro Park. It sells coffee from various Mexican states, including Oaxaca, Veracruz and Chiapas. Cuyo, the cool, charismatic barista, is a well-known local musician and the place attracts many other local artists and musicians who buy their coffee there.
Where to buy bread
Tijuana has many bakeries that sell mostly pan dulce, or sweet bread, and Panaderíia La Mejor is the best one I know. It’s near all the other places I’m recommending, right in the middle of downtown. It is tiny and doesn’t have the biggest selection, but what it does have is amazing. My favourite is a delicious, cream-filled cuerno, or “horn” bread.
Where to eat dinner
Caesar salad was invented in Tijuana in the 1920s by Caesar Cardini at Caesar’s restaurant, and of course it’s still on the menu. Located on the busy Avenida Revolución downtown, this vintage-styled restaurant has beautiful interior walls covered with historic photos of old Tijuana and famous guests.
Where to enjoy movies, art, music, dinner and drinks
Also on Avenida Revolución is Cine Tonalá, which combines a movie theatre, bar, fine dining and live music in a single three-storey building. The programme includes international and independent films and local bands.
Where to hang out
Another short walk from downtown will take you to the Mercado Hidalgo, a busy, colourful, traditional marketplace that is great for shopping, eating or just walking round. It sells everything from produce and piñatas to spices and household items. It has stands selling fresh juice or fruit smoothies, and others where you can sit and eat tacos or Mexican homestyle meals.
Who to visit
Visit me at my studio, which is round the corner from all these places at the junction of Hermenegildo Galeana and Av Melchor Ocampo. The building also contains the studios of two other awesome Tijuana artists, and on the ground floor is a car parts shop run by my two very chatty landladies, who are sisters. If you come on a Friday afternoon or Saturday, they will probably be making ceviche and drinking beer. Come say hi!
Photographs by Luis Garcia; Lunamarina/Dreamstime; Leszek Wrona/Dreamstime; William Perry/Dreamstime