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Baja and Beijing Cross Cultures

The border report


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Mely Barragan and Daniel RuanovaMely Barragan and Daniel Ruanova

Baja California chalks up more ties to China than meets the unassuming eye. Not only is Mexico’s northernmost state home to its largest per capita community of Chinese immigrants, their Mexodus has resulted in Mexicali-style Chinese cuisine, now famous from Cabo to Cancun. The two also share a maritime border (albeit the widest in the world)—the Pacific Ocean, over which Aeromexico jets folks from Tijuana direct to Shanghai twice weekly. And now, Tijuana boasts a new art house dedicated to the flow of cultural industry between Beijing, Baja, and beyond: TJINCHINA Project Space. The project is the brainchild of Tijuana artists and husband-and-wife team Daniel Ruanova and Mely Barragan, who launched it in 2011 during a two-year stint in Beijing’s trendy Caochangdi art district. The pair later returned home to open TJINCHINA’s second chapter in February on Avenida Revolución.

Housed in what was once the typical tchotchke outfitters between Sixth and Seventh streets, the two-story gallery now plays host to what Barragan and Ruanova call “cultural producers of an ever-shrinking local art network.” It’s focused on an exchange across new borders, hoisting border-manufactured art onto the Beijing scene, and vice versa. “We believe that what is happening in Tijuana today is something new, true, and authentic,” Ruanova says. “If we continue doing things with honesty, openness, and desire, it could be that this time the border boom leaves something for tijuanenses.”

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