SAN DIEGO.- The improvement of Tijuana's image on the international public stage, after years of drug war related violence, came about in part thanks to events like the massive 'Tijuana Innovadora' (which means Innovative Tijuana in Spanish) expo, bringing together the likes of Al Gore, Apple co-funder Steve Wozniak, Twitter co-inventor Biz Stone, Wikipedia head Jimmy Wales, businessmen, philanthropist, designers, writers, politicians and more from around the world for its 2010 and 2012 editions.
Its organizers now want San Diego to become more involved in this process of reclaiming the binational region's image and help further its development, by formally introducing the San Diego advisory council for Tijuana Innovadora, and what they now call a "movement", to San Diego's most influential political, business and civic leaders.
Held at the new San Diego Central Library, the gathering brought together interim Mayor Todd Gloria, former Mayor and now president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Jerry Sanders, city councilman and candidate for Mayor David Álvarez, U.S. consul general in Tijuana Andrew Erickson, the Mexico consul in San Diego, Remedios Gómez Arnau, among others from the local community who have pledged full support for the event and its now binational movement.
The Tijuana Innovadora San Diego advisory council organized this meeting with the hopes of presenting both the pubic and San Diego's mayor leaders about the need to turn this project into a reflection of the binational nature of this region, and in the near future, officially be able to make a true binational event. Even change its name.
"We will not call it, San Diego-Tijuana Innovadora" said Jaime González-Luna, the executive director of Tijuana Innovadora. They want to bring together "those who are interested in building bridges between all sectors... [and who] believe that San Diego and Tijuana is one single region," in order to set a global precedent for how two cultures and two countries can "peacefully and in a friendly way cooperate in the end towards a better quality of life," according to González-Luna, during an interview previous to the event.
The 2014 installment of the expo will still be simple called "Tijuana", but "The idea is to create this team" that can make 'San Diego-Tijuana Innovadora' a reality in the coming years, says director González-Luna, adding that the response from the business and political community in San Diego has been "incredible", something he also sees among the people at the event, with an attendance that was later pegged at about 300. He highlights the importance Hispanics in Southern California will be for the Tijuana Innovadora movement, as it is estimated that 80 percent of them are of Mexican descent and that means that their efforts will be focused on "making them remember their roots and making sure they maintain the ones they have already as Mexican-Americans," believing that will help increase understanding between both sides of the border.
He also admitted they still lack a venue for next year's expo after it was announced that it would not take place at the Tijuana Cultural Center like the first two editions, but he's confident though they would've made a decision "before the new year."
"This meeting is really to start to involve and show people about Tijuana Innovadora north of the border and show them what Tijuana truly is" commented Jerry Sanders, the president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and former city mayor, who participated in both previous Tijuana Innovadoras. He explained that this binational cooperation comes from an understanding that "we have one region here that just so happens to have a border in this region. But Tijuana and San Diego have been close for a very long time and are getting closer every time. [Tijuana] Innovadora shows just how sophisticated Tijuana is... the region and to show that San Diego and Tijuana work together each day."
We asked briefly Sanders about council member and mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer, which he actively supports on the campaign and how he views the Tijuana-San Diego relationship, given he was absent from the event. He assured us that Fualconer knows the importance of this relationship, that in effect he knows what Tijuana means to San Diego, since "he has seem to interact with Carlos Bustamante, the former mayor of Tijuana and saw the things we could do and is very excited about the opportunity to continue to develop that relationship."
The mayoral candidate who did show up a the event was David Álvarez, council member also and representative for the city's border communities, saying he was there to show support and solidarity for the movement. "Many of us have been talking about this for a long time", referring to uniting the region, accepting that Tijuana has had a early start on those efforts but is only just beginning to be acknowledged on the Californian side. "Even before being a candidate for mayor, my platform for city council as a representative for the border area, was to talk about this issue, traveling to Mexico several times... I'm also grateful that, finally, other leaders in San Diego are seeing this is of great importance for the power we could be," stated Álvarez.
Executive director González-Luna started the meeting, on time (something he would latter make note of, proudly), with the arrival of most of the guest, among them interim Mayor Todd Gloria, who also played host to the even, given that it was held within the crown jewel of the city's public life, the new central library. He gave a quick introduction about Innovadora's statistics from its first two expo's and commented that they are seeking to formalize a binational cooperation in order to find a reliable partner in San Diego.
VIDEO: Quick summary of the event
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