3.9k Share this

From The San Diego Union-Tribune, Friday, July 31, 1998:


By Sandra Dibble

Down below, sirens blared, electric signs flickered, and thudding bass rhythms blasted from the bars along Avenida Revolucion. But high above the noise and bustle of Tijuana’s tourist district, a small gathering sat captivated by far gentler sounds earlier this month.

The voices of four Tijuana tenors rose and fell, alternately passionate and powerful, lilting and tender. Arias by Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Puccini, Gioacchino Rossini soared through the open windows into the warm night air.

Tijuana has all the trappings of a busy border town — traffic, dust, crime, noise, trash. But it also has its hidden gardens, its quietly eloquent voices, its surges of beauty that will catch you by surprise. That evening earlier this month, 10 Tijuana musicians showed that classically trained talent flourishes here amid the rhythms of norteno bands.


“Tijuana is a city that hungers for classical music,” insists Jose Medina, a 34-year-old Tijuana-born tenor, one of an impromptu quartet that had their well-to-do audience delivering a standing ovation and clamoring for more.

The occasion was an $18-a-head fund-raiser for pianist Armando Pesqueira, held in the clubhouse of Fracciones de Cumbres, an upscale housing development above downtown. Pesqueira, who is president of Amigos de la Opera, an association of Tijuana opera enthusiasts, is heading north of the border to study conducting in San Francisco.

Many promising musicians simply leave and don’t come back — finding better-paid work in the United States. Or they settle in other parts of Mexico, where classically trained performers can expect broader audiences and greater government support.

“People who hear me ask, ‘Where are you from?’ ” says Marco Antonio Labastida, a 36-year-old tenor who trained at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio. “And I say, I’m from here, from Tijuana. The way they ask it’s as though they’re saying, ‘We just didn’t think that there are people with talent in Tijuana.’ ”

The mystery is not why classical musicians leave, but why those like Labastida and Medina opt to stick around. Though Medina performs in Europe, he has found a musical calling promoting opera in Tijuana.

Earlier this year, he worked with Amigos de la Opera to put on excepts from Puccini’s La Boheme, Verdi’s La Traviata and Rossini’s La Cenerentola for an appreciative audience of several hundred enthusiasts. Next year, Medina is helping the group with a production of Gaetano Donizetti’s L’Elisir D’Amore at the city’s Cultural Center.

“It has to be a top-quality production, or people won’t go,” said Medina. “We’re working really hard.”

Nobody gets rich playing classical music in Tijuana. Musicians will tell you they’re barely scraping by. Even the Baja California Orchestra, which gets government support, is down to 13 musicians working at half pay.

What sustains them is a sense of mission — that Tijuana needs and deserves their music. The challenge is finding institutional support.

Francisco Guerrero, a classical guitarist and academic coordinator at the Hispanic-American Guitar Center in Tijuana, believes you need to start young.

He does his bit — speaking to junior high school classes in a Tijuana shantytown, offering weekly guitar classes to children in the state capital of Mexicali and performing in duets and trios across the state.

The arts cultivate the spirit, says Guerrero, a native of the southern state of Oaxaca, a place where village bands play a vital social role. And a community that holds the arts in high regard, he says, is less likely to litter, suffers less corruption, enjoys a higher quality of life.

“People think that classical music is boring, because they don’t know about it,” he says.

Labastida, the tenor, believes an audience is there. “There are people who listen to classical music in their homes,” he says. “It’s just a question of finding them.”

SANDRA DIBBLE covers Tijuana. She can be reached at (619) 293-1716 and at [email protected]

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

3.9k Share this
You May Also Like
Colin Kaepernick attends the Netflix Limited Series Colin In Black And White Special Screening at The Whitby Hotel on October 26 in New York

Colin Kaepernick ‘has a scheduled tryout with the Las Vegas Raiders this week’

BREAKING: Colin Kaepernick ‘has a scheduled tryout with the Las Vegas Raiders…

Amber Heard only kept her role in Aquaman 2 because Jason Momoa was ‘adamant’ she remain

Amber Heard only kept her role in Aquaman because its star Jason…

Holy Grail’ of Ford Capris: RS3100 may sell for record £60k

A one-of-a-kind Ford Capri dubbed the ‘Holy Grail’ with just one careful…

War in Ukraine: 200 bodies found in basement of bombed out Mariupol apartment

An estimated 200 decomposing bodies have been found in the basement of…
Chicago crime: Police investigating after woman claims she was abducted in West Pullman on Far South Side

Chicago crime: Police investigating after woman claims she was abducted in West Pullman on Far South Side

CHICAGO (WLS) — Chicago police are investigating a potential abduction in the…

PICTURED: Missing girl, 10, who is feared to be victim of Texas elementary school massacre

A 10 year-old girl remains missing following Tuesday’s massacre at a Texas…
Dr David Heymann, who used to head the WHO's emergencies department, said someone with the tell-tale monkeypox lesions likely 'spread it to others when there was sexual or close physical contact'

Monkeypox outbreak may have been sparked by sex at two raves in Belgium and Spain, WHO expert warns

Monkeypox outbreak may have been sparked by sex at two raves in…
One video at the scene appears to show the suspected gunman approach the school while what sounds like gunfire is going off in the background

14 kids are killed after Texas gunman barricaded himself inside school during shoot-out

Texas gunman, 18, shoots dead 14 elementary schoolkids, one teacher, and seriously…