How his 90s Norteño-electronica collective influenced Tijuana of today

The World
Robert Mendoza in front of a colorful mural

"When I look for a place where you can see the old Tijuana and the new Tijuana," explains Roberto Mendoza, "[it's] Pasaje Rodriguez." He should know. In the '90s, Mendoza co-founded Tijuana's Norteño-electronica outfit Nortec.

Once full of souvenir shops meant for American tourists — microbreweries, galleries and book shops now flourish along the colorful commercial corridor. Artists have been commissioned to paint massive murals on steel curtains that serve as a backdrop for hipster selfies. There are art walks and vegan tamales aplenty. A Friday night at Pasaje Rodriguez now means indie shows and poetry readings.

Not too long ago, when cartel violence shook the city, its corridors were home to seedy characters and chipping paint. Now, Pasaje Rodriguez, and others like it, have become an epicenter to what many are calling Tijuana's art boom. And its new generation of business owners grew up with Nortec's timewarped sounds — and multicultural message.

"You know, Tijuana has had a great music history," explains Mendoza. "Because the first punk bands from Latin America were from Tijuana, the first Spanish speaking Blues bands from Latin America or Spain were from Tijuana. And this is because of the influence of the Unites States, of course."

Tuned in to San Diego's radio stations in the '90s, Mendoza, who also goes by the stage name Panoptica, heard something he liked — techno music. So, with the help of his buddies, he mashed the modern bleeps and bloops of electronica with traditional Norteño sounds, and created Nortec.

Today, Tijuana's locals are reclaiming their city. With creative spaces like Pasaje Rodriguez growing, the city pays homage to its past while pushing forward and staying current. "Right now, I think it's a great moment to be in Tijuana," says Mendoza.

@cafe.aether + #pasajerodriguez = ☀️

A photo posted by Pasaje Rodríguez (@pasajerodrigueztijuana) on

#PLDVNA last night @outheremx - the most magical venue #tijuana

A photo posted by angels dust (@slowtapes) on

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