Photos explore the 'surreal' side of Tijuana
"It's never a dull day in Tijuana," photographer Jason Fritz says of his adopted city. It is, in his view, "one of the West Coast's great cultural centers, only most people aren't in on the secret."
Fritz is author of a photo-blog called Tijuanalandia, featuring large snapshots of the more surreal and surprising aspects of Mexico's far northwestern border city. The photos range from tijuanenses celebrating a Mexico win in the 2010 World Cup to the vibrant new nightlife scene on downtown's Sixth Street.
Fritz, a graduate student at San Diego State University and a former photographer at several medium-sized newspapers, said Tijuanalandia was born out of a necessity to record -- and prove -- his experiences.
"It's like when you see something so extraordinary, then tell the story at a cocktail party, and people look at you funny, because in their hearts, they think you made the whole thing up," the blogger said in an e-mail interview with La Plaza. "The photos posted on Tijuanalandia are evidence of the surreal-ness, absurdity and beauty I experience everyday."
Fritz started the blog after moving to Tijuana in the spring of 2009. He said he was "paying obscene amounts in rent in San Diego" and spending most of his free time in Tijuana. After a while, the native of Fullerton decided to make a home in the place he enjoyed taking pictures.
Tijuana is once more on the international news radar. It often operates as the slate upon which Mexico measures its successes or failures. Lately, attention has turned to the relative drop in drug-related crime since the capture in January of drug kingpin Teodoro Garcia Simental, or "El Teo." The city hosted a conference last month featuring former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and magnate Carlos Slim that centered on "innovation." But Tijuana continues to suffer from spurts of extreme drug-related violence, including the recent massacre of 13 people at a drug rehabilitation clinic.
Fritz says the violence is something most locals only "experience secondhand." The tensions of the drug war in Mexico are only "implied" in Tijuana, in the presence of military convoys and the constant far-off sirens, the photographer said. Otherwise life there is normal, he added, a contrast that results in "conflicting emotions sometimes."
Fritz says the most positive response he's gotten to his blog is from native tijuanenses. "When they see an outsider like me give the city a fair shake, showing that Tijuana's story is in its nuance, and that
there is more to TJ than crime, violence and vice, they're moved," he said.
Here's a Tijuanalandia post on the contradictions of the local music scene, and here's one on a new nighttime bike-ride event. Here's a wonderful image of Tijuana seen from inside a jetliner. The coastal marine layer moisture common to the Tijuana-San Diego area is seen in the upper right, and the thin line that is the U.S.-Mexico border dips down into the lower left.
-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City
Photos: Images from Tijuanalandia.com. Credit: Jason Fritz