Well known Tijuana/San Diego street artist Panca took over two weeks to complete another one of her street murals, one of many in the city of Tijuana. Paola Villaseñor, better known as her artistic name Panca did a fifty foot painting of a boy reaching out for an ice cream cone in a dreamy like sequence in Tijuana's Colonia federal, literally right on the border with San Diego. The San Diego bred and Tijuana transplant has been on fire in the local art world as of late. She has been on the cover of the San Diego Reader and City Beat.
And she recently painted the whole San Diego Art Institute in Balboa Park with her work The Savagery of Women and pissed off more than a few people as complaints of the work, women, blood, decapitated heads came to SDAI. She is no stranger to controversy and is most certainly a border artist to follow, who brings attention to the city of Tijuana.
Her newest piece was done in collaboration with the Peña brothers, Carlos and Daniel. These two San Diego based brothers along with Villaseñor have been well documented to use south of the border as their canvass, bringing a new style to a already amazing Tijuana street art community. It's a burgeoning scene of young and local DIY street artists that is visible in many of the once sore eyed buildings across the city. For this new piece, they painted fifty feet worth of art in an already cool artist hood of Colonia federal, famous for having a converted an old Narco tunnel into a art center. Right on the border. Again, fabulous for the city that's notorious for all things not art.
On August 1st 2015, once the mural had been completed, famous Tijuana tour group Turista Libre held a Tijuana Street art tour, the only one of it's kind in the city (authorities take note). The tour brought dozens of tourists from North of the border for a street art tour hosted by Panca and culminated on the newly finished mural in Colonia Federal. A celebration of sorts, with dozens of American tourists who reserved a tour to view this, engaging in the festivities, learning about Tijuana neighborhoods and the beautiful way street art has met this city in new and very urban styles. Putting together a tour for Americans to come see Tijuana street art is a marvelous feat in and of itself.
Now enter the villain.
On August 2nd, Panca's new mural was painted over by the orders of whom we only know identified herself as the sister of the now defunct former Tijuana Mayor Federico ''Kiko" Valdez, the first ruling party PRI mayor to hand over the city to a new opposition PAN mayor during the Ernesto Ruffo wave of 1989. Mrs. Valdez did not take a liking to the work done by Panca and had it painted over despite having various conversations with the artist and her collaborators. The former mayor's sister does not own the wall, it is public and there is street art, graffiti and all sorts of things written on there already. The mural gave it some life and color, beautifying a place that once was crime infested. She was quoted as saying "I don't like it, there should do something with more Mexican folklore art.'' It has unfortunately been painted over with white paint, one day after dozens of Americans actually took a tour to view it. All because of the will of a once powerful old lady and resident of the neighborhood. The typical Mexican that feels she is important due to her connections and can do whatever she pleases, despite a monumental, binational effort to get the mural done and then have visitors come view it.
The despicable action of the sister of the Ex Mayor of Tijuana has sent ripples of anger throughout the creative community in town.
Derrik Chinn, who created and runs the tour company Turista Libre took to social media. The man is nothing less than a genius, creating a tour company to promote the beautiful and sometimes forgotten spaces and places of TJ. He brings many people from the States to Tijuana and had taken dozens to the mural that is now gone. His post on social media is as follows ...
''In less than a year, two of Tijuana's most cinematic, historic pieces of architecture have been destroyed. The most recent, Mexicoach on Avenida Revolución is still in the process of being demolished. And no more than 48 hours after one of the city's internationally recognized street artists completes a 50-foot mural on the border wall, neighbors allegedly decide to erase it despite that it was not painted on private property, nor the fact that it was intended to direct people to one of the city's more iconic art centers, La Casa del Tunel. All of the sudden, much of the world is not just recognizing but rethinking altogether and returning to Baja California because of its boastable food and wine scene, much of which is undoubtedly centered in Tijuana. Culinary arts are sexy and sellable, yes. But without complete artistic freedom and autonomy that is respected and defended by its own people first and foremost, what is this city -- and its people -- really worth?''
I stand in solidarity with Chinn, Panca and the creative community of Tijuana in calling this a heinous act of sabotage by a woman who, clearly, does not have a clue about what it takes to take back a city through art. Her arrogance is reminiscent of a Mexico I do not care to know, a Mexico of connections and an attitude of contempt towards artists, students and foreigners. The Sra. Valdez got her way this time, not because she was right or had a right to do so, just because of her own wicked will. She truly does not know what is good for the city, progress and helping defeat stereotypes and old perceptions.