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Revolution Street Revival

Created: 24 February, 2010
Updated: 13 September, 2023
4 min read

Paola Bahena

It is noon at Third Street and Revolution Avenue. The streets are full of sales people trying to entice people to buy curios, take a drink or buy a picture with a zebra painted donkey. Come in mister, curios, fine jewelry first margaritas are free Botox, Viagra, HGH, Soma…what do you need?

There are no more then ten Americans walking around and everything seems stagnet, not much has changed over the past ten years; a long street that used to be the vibrant heart of this complex city, reduced to a decadent shadow of what it was, now full of empty stores and large restaurants without a single client inside.

Abandoned by the US tourists over 500 stores have closed along the 10 block long Revolution Avenue. Tijuanenses are finally taking over those mythical spaces including the Jai Alai and the corners where Carlos Santana used to play guitar.

Since a little over a year ago, Sixth Avenue and Revolution has been booming with more than eight new bars that fill up, all the way into the streets during the weekends, surrounded by vintage clothing and used record stores. Eleventh Street is the home of menu-less restaurant Cielo, where the food brings pleasures to even the toughest food critics and the huge place where a pharmacy used to be is now a crowded concert venue.

But it is behind Mexican zarapes and wrestler masks lies the most recent transformation of the city in a historical passage, around 20 artist and college students are making their own.

“The truth is American tourism as we knew it, it’s not coming back, period” says Roberto Robinson, administrator of Pasaje Rodriguez, a long stretch of underground shops along Revolution Avenue and Constitucion.

“That’s why we decided to let the artists come in, they approached us with this proposal to make this an art-district and we decided it is our only chance to revive this area that until now had survived based on tourist… many Tijuanenses have never been here” Robinson explains.

Surrounded by fresh paint and with a scrubbing pad in his hands, artist Antonio Escalante explains that this project came about after a small intervention last October, where the empty stores were borrowed for a short art exhibit.

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 “Business people here at ‘La Revu’ have been waiting for the tourism to come back for years and years without really changing their offer, they just want the same people to keep coming back and that’s not happening” believes Escalante, “this is an independent proposal, with no government or business bureau help, aimed to act as a balance to all the violence going on around the city; this is not to ignore the fact that violence is happening, but to respond to it by using our imagination and creative force.”

Rene Castillo

Escalante has just one of 15 little commercial spaces now being scrubbed and repainted by artists young and old, literature students in charge of an annual used book fair, movie clubs, graphic designers like Tecui, who little by little have rehabilitated a space marked by dirt and abandon.

“Our space was a mess, after the rains we had to fix the ceiling and re-plaster the walls” says Jonathan Ruiz de la Peña, who is about to graduate from with Fine Arts degree at UABC (State University), and is planning to open an art gallery called El Nodo.

“The idea is to make art accessible, create projects that people ‘run into’ on their way to work, demystify art spaces as elitist… we want to sell of course, but we also want to create a space where more public can feel welcome and make it their own” he explained.

Amongst those moving into the underground hub is Liebre, a group of artists including Paulina Bahena, who moved into Tijuana six years ago from her native Jalisco.

“When I first arrived to Tijuana I found it funny to see people selling ‘Great desserts and perfect tacos’ in the same place” she remembers, “but sharing this space with restaurants and a dentist fits perfectly into the crazy dynamic of this city.”

Until now, the only residents of Pasadizo Rodriguez were a beauty school, a dentist and three small restaurant cafes, whose owners seem pleased to welcome artists as their new neighbors, who will be open for business in the coming month.

“Well, all I know is people who come here will have to eat” says   doña Rosy,  while grilling a big piece of breaded steak, “I think the more people the better, although I’m not sure what will these young people will be selling exactly.”

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Rene Castillo

In this article

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