She brought life back to Tijuana's cultural centers

Elsa Arnaiz talked about her work during these last three years when they spread art and culture to all corners of Tijuana

She brought life back to Tijuana's cultural centersPhoto: Brenda Colón Navar/SanDiegoRed.com
Photo: Brenda Colón Navar/SanDiegoRed.com

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TIJUANA- From Tijuana's coast to its inland valleys, from the border north to the rugged south, something changed in the cultural venues around the city. Spaces that were once in total disarray or shuttered by the Civil Protection agency, like the Cortijo San José installation, or other sites that were left halfway done (the 'El Pípila' center), are today oasis of artistic creativity that house youth orchestras and new areas for art like the Álvarez Malo Galleria.

VIDEO: Interview with Elsa Arnaiz

With her term as director of the Municipal Art and Culture Institute (IMAC in Spanish) coming to an end this week, Elsa Arnaiz sat down with San Diego Red to talk about what these last three years meant for her and the city, which not only saw several of the city's cultural centers go through a complete revitalization —including the Playas (one of Tijuana's districts), Altamira, El Pípila cultural centers and the Old City Hall building—but also saw a greater focus on binational work and solidifying the Book Fair's move to the Tijuana Cultural Center, or CECUT.

We talked about this and more.

Mrs. Arnaiz, you are reaching the end of another stage in your career, as director of IMAC. Tell us about how it feels to close this chapter.

I feel content, satisfied, thankful to the entire IMAC staff for the work we did with great care, effort and I hope that I've left something positive for Tijuana on matters of culture.

One senses a completely different atmosphere when stepping into the new cultural centers. Can you share with us some of what you did to these culture spaces?

By the time we came in, the History Museum had been inaugurated, but was closed. It was up to us to get it up and running and to this date, more than 70,000 people have passes through the History Museum, mainly children who have approached us in order to know more about the city's history. Also, the Historical Archives were being remodeled and, well, now they're one of the foremost archives in the entire state, a first class installation. We got to open two galleries, on in Playas de Tijuana, the Álvarez Malo gallery, and the one we call the Urban Gallery around the old City Hall, with photographs that are illuminated during the night and that every day are seen by thousands of people. Some of these photographs are historic and we see people stopping to take a look, to appreciate them and that is what I believe culture should be; open, on the move and accesible to the entire community.

We see a lot of activity in on the East Side of the city.

Indeed. We also worked a lot on the Pípila Culture House in the Mariano Matamoros neighborhood, which was a small building with four little rooms that has been remodeled and now is a culture center, well positioned amongst the community, very active and truly the only cultural choice people in the East Side of the city have. We had some 70 odd students when we began and now there are more than 700 enrolled in different workshops and courses. We have also a symphonic youth strings band, with violins and chelos with 73 children and 19 on a waiting list that we hope will be able to soon join. They play Mozart, but also traditional Mexican music. We feel very proud of these children. They're little, and have been playing since they were six or seven years old. We've expanded the Pípila Culture House thanks to federal money. Its space was almost tripled in size from what it was before. We also opened four more rooms due to the strong demand our cultural workshops were having in that area. We leave them with 700,000 pesos (53,400 USD) already appropriated for building an open air theater in that center. We hope that the new administration will make it so.

VIDEO : The evolution of the "El Pípila" Culture House

There was also major "surgery" done in Playas de Tijuana.

The Playas Culture Center [at the old Cortijo San José] was shuttered

The Playas Culture Center had 70 percent of its structure declared unfit for use by the municipal Civil Protection agency. The 'charro' canvas was covered by that yellow tape Civil Protection places everywhere, the Los Arcos room the same, leaking, full of humidity and well, we can gladly say that 100 percent of the Playas Culture Center is now fit and suitable. That we went from 120 or so students to 547 and many events. We have the Álvarez Malo galleria, the only one in all of Playas de Tijuana. The area belonged to the state Justice Department, having had jails there and well, it now is an art gallery. The Los Arcos salon and the charro canvas where reopened with a showing of Carmen, the opera, a unique event and on November 12, on the anniversary of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (historic female Mexican poet) we opened the Art Garden, with poetry, dance, music, a 7,200 square meter (77493 sq. feet) space as the only art and sculpture garden in the state with these dimensions. Besides, these areas are rented, which means that the IMAC can gathers its own revenues. That place was previously occupied by horse wranglers and grooms, with 58 stables at the Cortijo San José and we recovered all of ti, we fixed it and now it's that precious garden, a beautiful space for the community, especially in the summer.

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