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Tijuaneados Anónimos: A teardrop, a smile

[2010] In 2008, a group of citizens gathered every week to reflect on one of the worst crises of violence and ungovernability that Tijuana has experienced. Together, they imagine how they want the city to be and how they want to be as individuals.


Front of the building where the recovery group held meetings in downtown Tijuana.


The project includes: a Twelve-step program recovery group, a feature-length documentary, a museum exhibition and composition and performance of a song.

Originally conceived as a public art project,Tijuaneados Anónimos: a teardrop, a smile is a collective reflection through various media on our role as citizens, the power we have, and the possibilities of imagining together how to improve our environment.


In Tijuana, in 2008, we experienced one of the most terrible crises of violence and ungovernability in the history of the city. Shootings, murders, kidnappings, poor urban planning, migration and drug trafficking were words we heard every day, that we saw in the news headlines and affected our daily lives.



Photo courtesy of Omar Martínez


On the other hand, we saw that in car sales ads it was highly valued that the vehicles had not been used in Tijuana, that they were "not tijuaneados", this feature was promoted as a plus. This meant that the car had not traveled through the uneven streets of the city, that it had not been mistreated by falling into its potholes, that the humidity of the environment had not eroded its paint or the dust damaged the parts of its engine.


Used sofas abandoned on the street in Tijuana.


Starting from the idea that a person, like a car, can be "tijuaneado", understood as the erosion or wear that objects and people suffer, both physically, mentally and spiritually, for living in Tijuana, we decided to create a self-help group to recover from this phenomenon.


Based on the Twelve-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, the recovery group was located in downtown Tijuana. Open to the public, they held meetings three times a week. The place had a podium where the participants could talk about issues related to the city; the “tijuaneado” phenomenon, and the possibility to thrive as individuals in order to change the city’s condition, following the motto “La ciudad es la suma de todos” (The city is the sum of its citizens).



The recovery group having a meeting.


The feature-length documentary (2010) captures fragments of the recovery group sessions and follows some of its members in their daily lives. These characters and their actions dialogue with the voices of other citizens such as: a wrestler, a photojournalist, an activist, among others while they are trying to understand and describe the city where they live.



The documentary was part of the Official Selection of the Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia (2009) and of AMBULANTE (2010), an itinerant documentary festival. It won the Best Local Production in the San Diego Latino Film Festival. And we also presented it in schools, cultural and community centers in Mexico and the US. The Q&A sessions after the documentary screenings became an open session of Tijuaneados Anónimos where those present reflected on the places we inhabit and the possibility we have of improving them.




El corrido del ciudadano


The original music for the documentary was composed by the indie rock group Little White Teeth, de San Diego, Estados Unidos. from San Diego, California. The film also includes “El Corrido del Ciudadano” composed from quotes from the same film characters and performed by the Tijuana’s “Herencia Norteña” and was later covered by rockabilly band the Hell Dandys and cumbia style by Koñorteño.




We also did a recreation of the physical space of Tijuaneados Anónimos in museums and galleries. The aim was to invite visitors to reflect on the places they inhabit and the possibility of together imagining how to transform them. A replica of the group was part of the “Inside the Wave” exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art.

A replica of Tijuaneados Anónimos in the San Diego Museum of Art


This installation was part of the “Inside the Wave” exhibit


The title phrase "A tear, a smile" refers to the two aspects of the city: one of destruction, indifference, neglect and another aspect of hope and life, which struggles to flourish despite obstacles.

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