A bonfire crackles at sundown. The smell of marijuana wafts through the cool breeze. Partygoers eat hotdogs topped with bacon and guzzle Mexican beer from a keg as a band strums out summery pop songs. “The moon ain't got shit on you,” the singer cries.
We weren't on Calle Sexta anymore. No, on Friday night, my friends and I were far from that hipster hotspot in downtown Tijuana. We were in a southern district near Rosarito, hanging out on a ranch that used to be a junkyard, where broken-down vehicles sat abandoned in the weeds and a patch of concrete served as a natural stage.
The event was a birthday party for a musician known as Nasty. But it was more than that; it was a mini-festival featuring more than half a dozen bands and performers from San Diego and Tijuana, and it proved for many to be a profound cross-cultural adventure. The crowd included Mexican artists, American musicians and even a German university researcher. Partygoers chatted in both Spanish and English as they drank Tecate and bummed Delicados cigarettes.
“We were hoping it would be a good time and a way to bridge the two cities in a positive way,” says Bernardo Núñez, a member of La Casa Arde, a Tijuana arts collective that put the event together. “A lot of people seemed to have enjoyed themselves, so that's rad. We are happy that so many bands came out.”
It's been two years since the dawn of a cultural renaissance in which Tijuana's downtown has transformed from a deserted tourist trap into a haven for Mexican clubgoers and their curious gringo friends. But groups like La Casa Arde and Turista Libre have also set their sights beyond the bars of Calle Sexta.
Turista Libre (turistalibre.com) will host a day trip to the Tijuana Waterpark on Saturday, June 25, where there'll be 44-ounce beers, a Tarzan rope and treacherous slides. La Casa Arde hopes to put on another mini-festival this summer, as well as movie nights, art expos and poetry readings.
All of this makes for an increasingly exciting cultural exchange. At the ranch in La Gloria, however, some partygoers had more immediate concerns.
“I can smell out a joint better than anyone in the world,” one partygoer said, sniffing out a telltale aroma. “Where is that joint?”