Tijuana Folk Art Festival

By Robert Biddle

Tijuana Art Expo

Tijuana’s famous Expo Artesanal will be held from May 20th through the 24th on the Esplanade of CECUT (Centro Cultural). This year’s promises to be the largest Expo Artesanal ever, with craftspeople from the most culturally significant regions of our country offering their best collectible folk art and decorative pieces, some of which are unavailable outside of the artisans’ hometowns.

Ever since the beginning of the twentieth century, Tijuana has been known as the place to buy “Mexican curios”, but over the years the idea of “curio” has degraded – from oversized sombreros to portraits of Elvis on velvet to switchblade knives and now effigies of Bart Simpson assuming rude poses. These are the items that most day-trippers have wanted to buy from one generation to another. Real Mexican curios are known in Spanish as artesanías and they have always been available to those who have made the effort to look for them.

Some of Mexico’s artesanías are unique to specific locales, such as the silver of Taxco and the amates of the Río Balsas. Others are made in various of the traditional craft centers, usually distinguished by recognizably local motifs. In all, fifteen regions of Mexico – including Chiapas, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Jalisco, Mexico City, Mexico State, Michoacán, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Querétaro, Sonora, and Yucatán – will be sending some of their best craftspeople to demonstrate their work in Tijuana.

Tijuana Art Expo

Refreshments are available in the food pavilion, offered by some of Tijuana’s finer restaurants. Regional music and dances will be performed on stage throughout the event. Admission is free. Plenty of parking is available, both in the northern section of CECUT and in the Plaza Río shopping center just east of the Centro Cultural.

A new addition: The RevuTour

In honor of the Expo Artesanal, a unique walking tour of Avenida Revolución will be offered for the first time. The RevuTour is a short introduction to Revu’s best artesanías and most interesting cultural innovations. Over the course of an easy three-hour walk, an English-speaking, bicultural guide shares some of the gems hidden among the curio shops of Tijuana’s most famous street.

Tijuana Art Expo

Handmade textiles, museum-quality pottery and sculpture, local leather goods, and bespoke silver jewelry have all been available, for half a century or more, from select shops that have weathered the economic storms thanks to their tastefulness: RevoTour introduces its guests to the people responsible for each one.

Some of Revu’s most promising innovations are also featured. Cervecería Mexicali’s former brewmaster shows the tour what’s been going on in personal craft-brewing these days. The tour takes a quick run through Pasaje Rodríguez, Pasaje Gómez, and Pasaje Revolución to meet the latest arts-and-culture scene. Lunch at one of the new “urban cuisine” centers allows the visitors to sample the city’s vibrant gastronomic scene with ceviches, wood-fired pizzas, gourmet burgers-and-fries, Gouda-style cheeses, Argentinean empanadas, as well as Levantine, Japanese, and Mexican menus.

Tijuana Art Expo

The hotel La Villa de Zaragoza is offering a special package to those interested in Mexican folk art. Space is very limited. For $49.95 per person based on double occupancy, the hotel’s guests can receive a night’s lodging with Sunday brunch (May 24th) or a full American breakfast (Monday the 25th), the RevuTour on Sunday afternoon, and transportation to CECUT for the Expo Artesanal. The package price includes all applicable taxes as well as security parking at the hotel.

You can take advantage of the Expo Artesanal package by writing to the hotel at reservation(at)hotellavilla.biz or calling (from the U.S.) 011-52-664-685-1832.