This is a detail of a painting by my brother Sergio, a graffiti and tattoo artist in San Diego. When I asked him to send me this image, I had been thinking of our curious relationship with Tijuana. The representational painting, in keeping with Sergio's toonish style, is a nostalgic scene of the barrio we knew in La Mesa. We called that lot -- a yard and a row of single-room bungalows -- "los cuartitos." Each little branch of my maternal Andrade clan had its own little cuartito. Here's what Sergio had to say about the painting:
The piece is called Saturday Morning in Tijuana 82. I've also called it Tijuana 1983. Either or. Like all the other pieces that are still in my house it is a work in progress. None of my paintings are finished until someone else owns them. I tried to portray what it felt like going to Tijuana to visit the fam on the weekends when we were little. I remember ninjas were awesome and Bruce Lee was the shit. I also remember random dangerous holes and cracks in the ground. Paleteros. The stories of [our brother] Gaston being like the local dog whisperer. I also included Gramma Esperanza in her lime green pants. Cars that were not functional... cousins that we called tios. Outhouses...stuff like that. I'm glad youre diggin it. I like it cause I think that that Tijuana, for better or worse, is quickly disappearing.
The piece kind of reminds me of a latter Carmen Lomas Garza. Lomas Garza is the Tejana painter whose warm scenes of Mexican American domestic life in South Texas are included in Cheech Marin's "Painters of the Verge" collection.
* Sergio is not naturally a self-promoter. But let me tell you that he has exhibited his canvas or graffiti work in galleries and shows in Baltimore, Oklahoma City, Mexico City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Tijuana, and Melbourne, Australia. He also practices mixed martial arts, MCs with the Boxfeeders, and has modeled for Tribal Gear.
* Previously, "Officially cool, Tijuana art arrives."