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Everything is Energy

Brenda Garate: Team San Diego

Team led by Jenna Close and Jon Held

Project Essay: The Energy of Border Culture

Tijuana B.C. Mexico: Its geographical location gives it an energy and a vibrancy that is different from other cities. It caters to two currencies, two languages and has both a pedestrian and vehicle border-crossing option.

Attracting people from everywhere south of its city borders, Tijuana is filled with entrepreneurs, ambitious men and women, hustlers, illiterates, con artists, swindlers and many hard-labor workers. Encounters with taco stands, pharmacies, taxi drivers, American fast food, beggars, street performers and outdoor vendors are virtually inevitable. The culture mesh of Americanism’s juxtaposed in a Mexican culture lessen its shock, yet the exuberance of a different country is palpable everywhere you look.

The city is painted in vibrant and random colors, and adorning part of its landscape are Catholic churches. While there may be a sinful quality to life here, there is also a need of worship, of forgiveness and of spiritual deliverance.

This sense of devotion to God is not truly observed in a church, but in those solitary moments where I find older generations sullenly meditating on neighborhood streets. There is an effervescent quality to their stillness that brings me to the realization that they are living in the present; that a tired body is taking a rest and being thankful for being alive. In their quiet gaze are smiling eyes, the findings of wisdoms that are shared only with God.

It is my hope to continue to expand and explore this project thoroughly now that I have become part of its border culture, endlessly commuting through its borders. I will aim to document and catalog it thoroughly.

Creative Brief:

I have chosen to document various aspects of life on the border.

In order to do this, I have decided to become part of the border culture and live with my grandmother, in the border city of Tijuana, B.C. It is my hope to capture some interesting subjects such as commuters.

Documenting the city itself is just as important, so its flags, architecture and the overall energy of this city is something that I also hope to capture.

I want the viewer to have a full expression of what border life can be about. It should make them think about the history of Tijuana, whether it has always had this rough feel to it or if it has been affected by the drug culture. The similarities it bears to the US as it races to catch up to the twenty-first century are also interesting to note and document. Juxtapose those elements with the very palpable contrasts of a different democracy, which gives this city a flare of irony.

At the moment, I am at a loss as to whom it speaks to, but I know that it is meant to inform about this way of life. And that might just be the most powerful outcome for my project, informing.

I do feel that the most thoughtful approach to this project is in a documentary style, since very few images will be posed, and it will be mostly documenting the city and the way of life. Documenting a border city like Tijuana is something I’ve always wanted to do, as it is a living city, constantly morphing to cater to urban life.

All images in this article © Brenda Garate

For more about Brenda Garate and her photography, visit her Web site: