On Saturday Tijuana street artists Panca and Once Cero Dos joined Turista Libre for a lap of their favorite murals around the city, part of Steve Turner Contemporary's four-day Art Baja Tijuana pop-up exhibit.
Curating a tour of Tijuana street art is no easy feat. Street "art" is everywhere you turn, and while much of it is on par with a kindergarden finger paint party, anything is better than yet another ad raping your brain. These two artists in particular, however, are responsible for several of my personal favorites, and we're very grateful to both for having teamed up with TL for the day.
The route started in Hacienda Agua Caliente at Tijuana architect Jorge Gracia's newest mod mini-mansion, Casa GS. The house is home to Panca's latest mural, an eyeless multi-mouthed monster emerging from a red and blue vortex among a herd of hot-pink bats.
Then it was off to a seven-headed collaboration between Panca and Once along the free road to Rosarito, below a monstrous concrete castle that is best described as Bruce Wayne's would-be Tijuana crash pad.
Onward to the central bus station off the Via Rapida freeway, whose back wall bears murals by several Tijuana street artists, including our two guests of honor, that collectively span a good 100 meters. It was here that a man with a plastic cup full of Tonaya (Mexico's namesake hooch) began modeling his back tattoos to the group for "soda money," while another bystander lit a small fire to either welcome us or scare us off. The heavy smoke contextualized the moment, either way.
Next up was a private residence on Ermita Sur in La Mesa, whose outer wall is home to a 20-foot Sesame Street reject wearing one of Once's trademark "miradas perdidas" (lost dazes).
Onward to the corner Revolucion and Calle Sexta downtown to another collective mural outside Zebra Mexican Pub, and then over to check out the heavily tagged back patio at Mi Pueblito, perhaps the diviest of Tijuana karaoke bars. "Karaoke" bar is probably a better way to put it. The scene here was my favorite moment of the day by far. Grungy twentysomethings scrambling to hide their bowls, others whipping out their phones to document this unannounced invasion of white people who look like they've just walked into life a week after the apocalypse. I think we stayed for a total of three minutes.
The day ended with a quick round of tequilas and Squirt and a little stenciling at Panca's downtown studio-home, a small celebration to commemorate another memorable Tijuana adventure that left everyone with at least one new Facebook profile photo in front of authentic Tijuana urban decor and no one in the hospital. ¡Esooo!
Thanks again to Panca, Once and all the turistas – 37 altogether – for the amazing day.