The penultimate transmission of Borderblaster, features audio from an Open Mic/ Open soapbox held on Saturday October 27th at cognate space/espacio cognado. Vendors, pedestrians crossing, street performers, and citizens of Tijuana and San Diego sing, play, scream, or declare something to the border at the at the point of crossing. Additionally, we asked people at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, where the Open Mic took place to complete the phrase, "La frontera es..." or "The border is..." We open the transmission with responses we received to that inquiry. Responses vary from, "The border is opportunity." to "The border is where there are many cars." and even "The border is nothing."
Borderblaster: Transmission 5 "Open Mic/Discurso Abierto"
The hope for this open mic was that people would take the opportunity to interact with and think critically about the space of the crossing. The port of entry is an interesting site in that most people are not there to spend time there, that is, they are visiting the site in order to leave the site at quickly as possible. The crossing is not typically a space you to would visit for the sake of visiting, but a kind of bureaucratic, forced way station that stands between you and your destination. While the long lines queuing up to the threshold between the US and Mexico today for many mean boredom and fatigue, this long wait also creates opportunities for civic and intrapersonal engagement. It was interesting to us to discover what sorts of reflection the Open Mic inspired.
Francisco Nuño and Juan Torrez Medina, the current and former presents of the shop-owner's association, opened the recording session with concerns for the future of the Mercado de Artesanias de la Linea in light of the re-development at the port of entry. The El Chaparral entrance into Mexico opened the 24th of October, and in the three days that has elapsed since the opening both Nuño and Torrez had noticed changes in the way thigs were being orchestrated at the border. With barriers put up so that some lanes were closed off to ambulant vendor's carts, and permits being more strictly monitored by local enforcement, the anxiety among business people at the San Ysidro Port of Entry has been palpable. The two men who are both second generation shop-owners expressed the nessecity for both local government as well as arts and cultural groups to assist the market in order for it to continue to be a viable space for commerce in Tijuana. While the situation at the Market remains uncertain, these men remain optimistic that in the case of relocation, by the government the market will continue to thrive, and perhaps even be open to a new client base.
Angela Villa was next to take the stage. Once a performer in Los Angeles, Villa now takes to the streets with an album she recorded in-studio in the US. Armed with an ipod mobile speaker and microphone she performs for pedestrians at the crossing regularly, Transmission 5 includes her performing the Cumbia "Si te vienen a contar."
76 year old Margarito Garcia Talavera followed Ms. Villa with the Jose Alfredo Jimenez standard "Ella." Mr. Garcia who also performs at the port of entry as well as on Avenida Revolucion, sings and plays guitar and violin. Garcia is originally from the state of Guerrero, but has resided in Tijuana for many years making his living by performing on the streets of the city.
Next Tijuana Historian Marco Kouh gave instructions for the creation a communal poem. Using the exquisite corpse techinique used in surrealist writings, he proposes stringing together the thoughts of the hundreds waiting in line as a way of building a poem using the collective subconscious of individuals at the border. Subsequent to Kouh's reading, Misael Diaz read an excerpt from Jose Vasconcelos' memoir "Ulysses Ciollo." The section titled, "El Comienzo," is a description of his childhood fears of being taken by neighboring Apache tribes. In response to these fears his mother insisted that only she and his father would be killed and that he should learn to speak their language, and lean their culture in order to convert them to Christianity.
Vasconcelos grew up along the border near Texas during a time when the border was being defined as such. Diaz reads "El Comienzo," "The Beginning" in English, as a sort of document of the negotiation in identity, and the anxiety about the other that occurred in this period of codifying what the border would become. I too did a reading of Charles Bukowski's "The Bluebird," a poem that for me speaks to the experiences of many of the ambulant workers we have met at the port of entry, who have struggled with substance abuse problems. These and women have proven to be incredibly supportive, often very sensitive individuals who are often judged by the addictions that have dictated their past. On a meta level, for me "Bluebird" also speaks to the state of Tijuana as a city, a city that seems to have embraced its vulnerability, and begun to take steps at healing itself after such a traumatic period of violence.
The audio ends with an excerpt of a Son Jarocho performance. Giovanni Zamudio introduces Jaraneros who participate in Son Jarocho workshops on both sides of the border, assembled at the Mercado de Artesanias de la Linea to play traditional music from the Mexican State of Veracruz. Played principally on a jarana a guitar-like stringed instrument, Son Jarocho is combines Indigenous, European, as well as Afro-Carribean influences. The Son developed from the melding of African rhythms, borrowed from slaves brought through port cities in cuba. When the slave trade came though the ports of Veracruz--citizens of which are called Jarochos --the Cuban son arrived with it. In addition to the Jarana, Son Jarocho utilizes the quijada, or jawbone which is used a percussive instrument, as well as zapateado, or a sort of tap dancing, that also adds percussion of son being played. Most lyrics of the Son are improvised, and often quite funny or playful. There are Son Jarocho workshops are free and open to the public on both sides of the border, in Tijuana every Wednesday at 5:30PM in the Pasaje Gomez, and in San Diego on Thursdays in Chula Vista, Saturdays in University City and Sundays in Balboa Park at the Centro Cultural de la Raza.
The final Borderblaster live recording event took place Saturday, November 3, at Cognate Space, and transmitted live to the port of entry. The final Border blaster Transmission, Mixtape for Crossing will be transmitted simultaneously Friday, November 9, at 3pm in Tijuana at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, and at The Univeristy Art Gallery on the UCSD Campus.
Listen to and read about all the Borderblaster transmissions from Tijuana: